Saturday, December 26, 2015

AFI Top 100, #45: "A Streetcar Named Desire" (1951)

Movie Stats:
Released 1951 (Italy)
American, in English (a tiny bit of non-translated Spanish)
Director - Elia Kazan
Stars - Vivien Leigh, Marlon Brando, Kim Hunter, Karl Malden

Plot Summary:
Down on her luck and mentally unbalanced, Blanche Dubois (Leigh) goes to live with her sister Stella Kowalski (Hunter) and her brother-in-law Stanley (Brando). Fireworks of the very bad kind ensue. Malden co-stars as Blanche’s love interest, Mitch.

Minor use of some ethnic slurs; violence; heavily implied rape (actual act not shown on-screen).

Bad Stuff:
I’m not in love with Leigh’s acting. Much scenery was chewed.

It’s a bit boring.

Good Stuff:
Brando is SO amazing. When you see him in his heyday, you completely get why directors were willing to put up with his BS. He had a rare talent, and he’s absolutely chilling in this.

I love how claustrophobic it is. Set almost entirely in the Kowalski apartment, you can feel those walls closing in on Blanche, the trap slowly settling into place. It’s done quite masterfully.

I really like the dialogue. The juxtaposition of Blanche’s long-winded, flowery prose with the casual, colloquial-filled speech of nearly everyone else involved is interesting.

The Verdict:
This is yet another movie on this list that’s not a comfortable watch. I don’t particularly care to see abuse, whether it’s in real life or on film. Just because it made me uneasy, however, doesn’t mean that I didn’t like it. It’s fascinating in that can’t-look-away-from-the-slow-motion-wreck sense. It was both difficult and infuriating to watch Blanche’s mental state deteriorate. The whole time, I kept thinking, “Can’t these people around her see that she’s not well? Why don’t they help her?” It’s anguishing. This isn’t a movie that’s going to make you laugh or smile, but it will move you.

I give it 4 stars.


Patricia said...

This is one of those movies watched too late at night during a college break. I think I need to rewatch it to have an official opnion. I remember getting up to adjust the volume a lot. (This was the TV that didn't have a remote control for volume.)

balyien said...

The sound mixing was TERRIBLE. I could barely hear most of Vivian Leigh's dialogue. Fortunately I was watching with the subtitles on. I had seen it once many years ago, and always remembered liking it, but beyond that I'd forgotten the entirety of it, and the impression I had in regards to what it was about was dead wrong.