Wednesday, March 3, 2010

#65 A Streetcar Named Desire: We got a noisy woman in the place

1951. dir. Elia Kazan, starring Vivien Leigh, Marlon Brando, Kim Hunter, Karl Malden.

Seen it before? No.

Vivien Leigh plays Blanche DuBois is this adaptation of the Tennessee Williams play. Blanche is one of those Southern women whose gentility and manners are a mask for her vast snobbishness. Having lost her job, her home, and most of her money, she is forced to move in with her sister Stella (Kim Hunter) and her loutish husband Stanley Kowalski (Marlon Brando). Stanley's shouting, abusiveness, and general low-class behavior offend Blanche's delicate sensibilities, but there's lots of sexual tension between them. Blanche's whole world has fallen apart (and it's revealed that it's mostly her own doing) so she's gone a little crazy. Her delusional ramblings and overall uselessness annoy Stanley to the point where he can't stand having her around anymore. Stella is mousy and weak, and remains loyal to Stanley.

This is a fantastic movie. They really don't make movies like this anymore. It's hard to identify with anybody here, because all of the main characters have such huge flaws:
  • Stanley: loud, abusive, greedy, just an all-around asshole.
  • Blanche: compulsive liar, judgmental, arrogant, annoying.
  • Stella: pushover.
These days they would make the characters entirely good or entirely bad, so you'd know exactly who you were supposed to root for. Honestly? I identified with Stanley the most. Oh, I'm not saying he's a good person or anything. Definitely needs some anger management classes, and a swift kick in the ass. But I can't really disagree with most of what he says. Blanche really is a pain in the ass, and she really did piss away her family fortune. I certainly wouldn't put up with her for six months.

Position on the list: 203
The Streetcar itself: Traded. To the city of San Francisco, for one of their cable cars.

EDIT: OK I read the Wikipedia page, and apparently they bowdlerized the play to make the movie. In the play: Blanche's husband is gay, and that's why he kills himself (this made no sense as presented in the movie); Stanley rapes Blanche, making him much much less sympathetic and making Blanche's insanity more understandable; and Stella stays with him at the end, which is much more in character than what happens in the movie. Hays Code strikes again! I really think that code ruined movies from 1935-1960. Now I want to see the play, it sounds much more interesting...

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