A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
Director: Elia Kazan
Cast: Vivien Leigh, Marlon Brando, Kim Hunter, Karl Malden
Plot: Disturbed Blanche DuBois moves in with her sister in New Orleans and is tormented by her brutish brother-in-law while her reality crumbles around her.
Awards: Won 4 Oscars - Best Lead Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Art Direction-Set Decoration. Nom. for 8 Oscars - Best Picture, Best Director, Best Leading Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Original Score, Best Sound. Won Special Jury Prize and Volpi Award (Venice).
Rating: PG for some sexual themes.
IN RETROSPECT (Spoilers: NO)
Elia Kazan's A Streetcar Named Desire which is based on a play written by Tennessee Williams is a landmark film in many ways. First, it provided the pad that launched the career of one of America’s most iconic actors - Marlon Brando.
Second, it was one of the most sexually suggestive films to be released at that time, sparking uproar from the Legion of Decency which forced Kazan to tone down the film in the cutting room. Thankfully, what we have on DVD now is the director's cut, the version that Kazan would have shown.
A Streetcar Named Desire is an acting-driven social drama. In fact, it is said to be 'the most thrilling display of ensemble acting in all of American film'. I disagree slightly, though it comes close to being true. Marlon Brando and Vivien Leigh give career-defining performances playing Stanley and Blanche respectively.
The chemistry between Brando and Leigh in the film is such a delight to watch; the contrast is sharp with Brando as a rugged, tough-talking and occasionally violent animal while Leigh is seductive, vulnerable and spouts poetic lines. The result is one of 1950s cinema's most vividly-portrayed character interplays.
Stella and Mitch played by the supporting cast of Kim Hunter and Karl Malden respectively are important to the overall character development of Stanley and Blanche. It not only underscores the sexual tension between the characters, but also solidifies the theme of desire throughout the film. T
The locational scope of the film is small. Most of the scenes are filmed in the vicinity of an apartment. Thus, the cinematography is more intimate than grandeur and has more close-ups than wide, panning shots. Together with the earnest directing by Kazan, the cinematography by Harry Stradling Sr. earned two out of an impressive twelve Oscar nominations.
A Streetcar Named Desire is the first of many Kazan-Brando collaborations. Along with 1954's On the Waterfront, it is also one of Kazan's best directing efforts.
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