'You take a Streetcar named Desire, then change to one named Cemetary'. Blanche Dubois' directions to find her sister's home, sum up author Tennessee Williams' view of life, and how it is portrayed in this classic film.
Ellia Kazan's insightful and sensitive direction, coupled with wonderful acting, make this film compelling and electric. Vivian Leigh won the best actress Oscar for her performance. Karl Malden (of 'Streets of San Francisco' fame), and Kim Hunter won Oscars for supporting roles. Marlon Brando was nominated for best actor, but lost out to Humphrey Bogart in 'The African Queen'.
For me it is Brando's performance that stands out. You have to be careful that your TV screen does not get damaged, as he burns a trail across every scene he is in. Putting it crudely, the man oozes sex, passion and turmoil.
A whole disc of extras, tell the history of the play, and how it was transferred to film. I was fascinated to learn about changes that had to be made to the play, and cuts to the finished film that had to be made, so that it could play in 1951. The cuts to the film are restored in this version. It was interesting to learn that the Broadway cast were largely kept for the film. Only Jessica Tandy as Blanche Dubois was dropped, as they needed one bankable movie star amongst what was a cast of unknowns in Hollywood then. Vivian Leigh was drafted in, as she had played the role in London.
It's not a good film to watch if you like them light and easily entertaining, but if you like 'em meaty and thought provoking then this film is a classic must-have.
At the time of writing, the movie is available at a special low price, so what are you waiting for?
on 29 January 2013
Wow! We really are in the midst of a great period of home movie consumption. With much revered classics looking better than ever before on Bluray discs, it really is a marvellous time for movies in the home. The Bluray in question here is simply fantastic and Streetcar has never looked so glorious! The shaky old DVD copy is quite redundant now for all who love this classic movie. Dark and brooding is the order of the day here and this Bluray transfer is just so. And intentionaly so. For a 60 year old piece of celluloid this looks fabulous.
With a barnstorming and bestial performance from Brando, a fragile, mesmerising Vivien Leigh and great turns by Kim Hunter and Karl Malden the film deservedly won 4 Oscars in 1951 and is still a powerful piece today. Interestingly, 3 of the 4 leads won the Oscar in their category for acting with only Brando missing out in the lead actor category. To Humphrey Bogart no less.
The sumptuous set designs and art direction also triumphed and its easy to see why.
Extra features on the disc are ported from a previous edition of the movie but are extremely noteworthy. A brilliant, pieced together commentary track with the ever informative, if a little dry, Rudy Behlmer, actor Karl Malden and Jeff Young. A fascinating documentary on director Elia Kazan which is over an hour long, a couple of featurettes on the play from which the film came and its journey from stage to screen and some other interesting tidbits examining some background on the movie.
Easy to recommend this is a beautiful release of a magnificent movie!
on 10 July 2012
Sixty years on Streetcar remains essential viewing, a tour de force drama which continues to be ageless as it examines the human condition in a way in which we can all relate to.
Based on the Tennessee Williams play of the same name Streetcar follows Blanche who comes to live with her sister and brother in law harbouring a few secrets, she finds what awaits her is not what she expected.
Brando is oft discussed when it comes to Streetcar and with good reason, his performance is truly iconic here as Stanley, representing a brutish exciting and sexually charged male, predatory almost like an animal, albeit one with a bad temperament, he exudes all these features at times coming across more like a force of nature than anything else. His Oscar nomination accordingly deserved and arguably his most memorable performance outside the Godfather
However Leigh as Blanche for me is the central component, gorgeous, exciting, vulnerable and damaged a volatile mix, feminine but promiscuous, a woman of means reduced to staying in a run down housing block, repulsed and excited by Stanley's raw masculinity. As the film develops we discover the events that drive her forward in her precarious state, just how lonely she is, how badly she needs human connection an utterly complete performance of a complicated character. David Fincher commented the Vivien Leigh was fantastic in streetcar but will always be Scarlett O'Hara, for me however I saw Streetcar first and her performance as Blanche Du Bois is and forever will be engrained in my mind, a deserved Oscar win though the parallels in Leigh's real life make it an even darker role.
Spousal abuse as well as the entwining links between violence and sex are explored in as much detail as they could be during the 50's, at times necessarily subtle which if anything adds more to the picture and at it's core Streetcar remains a psychological study of emotionally driven or even damaged people, multi-layered performances from all the cast present a tragic picture. Blanche's need to create 'magic' to be courted like a lady to compensate for what she's done her continued downward spiral you find yourself unable to pull away from. It addresses the generational shift the old giving away to a new.
Indeed everything about streetcar worked, despite only taking place in a few locations the direction is never dull, the use of light and shadow important and creates a beautiful picture to look at amidst the streets of New Orleans, you can feel the grime and sweat as well as the steamy sexuality. The score represents the situations with aplomb with haunting polka covering Blanche's tragedy.
Still current and surpassing many a modern drama due to it's winning performances Streetcar is a timeless classic and always will be, long after 250 million dollar blockbusters like Transformers are gone people will still remember "Whoever you are, I have always depended on the kindness of strangers" and for good reason.
on 24 August 2006
As a playwright, Tennessee Williams was to the South what William Faulkner was as a fiction writer: a creative genius who revolutionized not only the region's arts scene and literature but that of 20th century America as a whole, bringing a Southern voice to the forefront while addressing universally important themes, and influencing and inspiring generations of later writers.
Pulitzer-Prize-winning "A Streetcar Named Desire" dates from the peak of Williams's creativity, the period between 1944 ("A Glass Menagerie") and 1955 ("Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," his second Pulitzer-winner). After its successful 1947 run on Broadway, "Streetcar" was adapted into a screenplay by Williams himself for this movie produced and directed by Elia Kazan, starring the entire Broadway cast except Jessica Tandy, who was replaced by the star of the play's London production, Vivien Leigh. The piece takes its title from one of the New Orleans streetcar lines that protagonist Blanche DuBois (Leigh) rides on her way to the apartment of her sister Stella (Kim Hunter), foreshadowing her later path, from (ever-unfulfilled) Desire to Cemetery (death, or the loss of reality) and a street called Elysian Fields, like the ancient mythological land of the dead.
Although Blanche is the person most visibly engaging in deception (of herself and others), almost everyone of the characters suffers loss after a brutal reality check: Stella, who hasn't been back home for years, first learns from Blanche that their genteel home Belle Reve (literally: "beautiful dream") is "lost" - although in what manner precisely Blanche doesn't specify, which immediately raises the suspicion of Stella's husband Stanley (Marlon Brando) - only to later hear from Stanley that under the veneer of Blanche's appearance as a delicate Southern lady lies a promiscuous past, and the true circumstances of her ouster from her job and ultimately from their home town were not as Blanche would have Stella believe. Stanley's friend Mitch (Karl Malden), who despite their disparate social backgrounds intends to marry Blanche after they are drawn to each other by their mutual need for "somebody" in their life, is similarly disillusioned by Stanley, and subsequently by Blanche herself when he insists on seeing her in bright light instead of the dim light of dancehalls and of the paper lamp she has insisted on hanging over Stella and Stanley's living room lamp, neither able to face the effects of age and a profligate lifestyle herself nor willing to reveal them to others. And Blanche's own loss of innocence, finally, set in years earlier, when she found her young husband in bed with another man and he committed suicide after she publicly reproached him. "Nobody sees anybody truly but all through the flaws of their own egos. That is the way we all see each other in life," Tennessee Williams says about "A Streetcar Named Desire" in Kazan's 1988 autobiography "A Life;" and in a letter opposing the movie's censoring before its release he described the story as being about "ravishment of the tender, the sensitive, the delicate, by the savage and brutal forces of modern society."
The brute, of course, is Stanley, who not only becomes the catalyst of Blanche's fate and the destroyer of Stella's, Mitch's and Blanche's own illusions, but is her antagonist in everything from background to personality: Where she is a fading belle dreaming of days gone by he is all youthful virility, a working-class man living in the here and now; where she is refined he is crude, and where she engages in pretense, he tears down the facade behind which she is hiding. The conversation during which Stanley tells Stella about Blanche's past is pointedly set against Blanche's humming the Arlen/Harburg tune "It's Only a Paper Moon," which sees love transforming life into a fantasy world, which in turn however "wouldn't be make-believe if you believed in me." Yet, as portrayed by Marlon Brando, who with this movie stormed into public awareness with his unique and volcanic approach to acting, Stanley is no mere vulgar beast but a complex, often controversial character, despite his brutal streak almost childishly dependant on his wife and frequently hiding his own insecurities under his raw appearance (thus putting up a certain front as well, but unlike Blanche's, a socially acceptable, even common one). Ever the method actor, Brando reportedly stayed in character even during filming breaks; much to the disgust of Vivien Leigh, for whom lines like "[h]e's like an animal. ... Thousands of years have passed him right by and there he is: Stanley Kowalski, survivor of the stone-age, bearing the raw meat home from the kill in the jungle" must consequently have come from the bottom of her heart.
In early 1950s' society, "Streetcar" was considered way too risque - even downright sordid - to be presented to moviegoing audiences without severe censorship, which Williams and Kazan were only partly able to fight. One of the most substantial changes made in the adaptation was that at the end of the movie Stanley is punished for his brutality towards Blanche, whereas in the play's cynical original ending he is the only character experiencing no loss at all; indeed seeing his world restored after Blanche's exit. Since Kazan's suggestion to produce two alternate versions (one to please the censors, one in conformity with Williams's play) was rejected, even the 1993 "Original Director's Version" retains its altered, censorship-induced ending. Therefore, the play will forever constitute the last word on Williams's intentions. But even in its censored version this movie was a deserved quadruple Oscar- and multiple other award-winner (albeit undeservedly not for Brando). It has long-since become a true classic: a cinematic gem of first-rate direction and superlative performances throughout.
And so it was I entered the broken world
To trace the visionary company of love, its voice
An instant in the wind (I know not whither hurled)
But not for long to hold each desperate choice.
Hart Crane, "The Broken Tower"
(Preface to the published version of Tennessee Williams's play.)
on 22 May 2012
Tennessee Williams based his screenplay on Oscar Saul's adaptation of Williams' own Pulitzer Prize-winning play set in a grimy New Orleans project. The story of the fragile sentimentalism of a woman who visits her sister only to be taunted mercilessly by her childish brother-in-law. This classic film garnered 12 Academy Award Nominations (including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Marlon Brando), and Best Screeplay), winning 4 including Best Actress (Vivien Leigh), Best Supporting Actress (Kim Hunter), and Best Supporting Actor (Karl Malden). what can I say?
Tennessee Williams himself wrote of Vivien Leigh"s performance in "Streetcar Named Desire": "She brought everything I intended to the role and even much more than I had dared dream of". Brando is wonderful as Stanley Kowalski,he is equally impressive in a role that made him a star. He gives a different dimension to Stanley and introduces method acting to Hollywood. This role that deserved an Oscar is maybe the best of his career. but the new viewers to the film seem to come away with the haunting greatness of Vivien Leigh in what is one of the most harrowing and shattering pieces of acting ever committed to film.also This inner and complete understanding is what Brando praises Leigh for in his autobiography. He agrees that she plays this Hamlet of female roles better than anyone because he felt she was quite like the character.this film is a must for any one who like the art of acting .The performances of Marlon Brando and Vivien Leigh alone will be an educational study for you.They were both masters of getting so deep in character that you had to remind yourself that they were acting
they make us feel all the intimacy and claustrophobia ..
all Loyalties will be questioned, and all honesty will be tested
we even gets more and more exhaust as our viewing flirts almost as voyeurism.
they really make us live and feel the power of human attractions ..
this is as good as it get in acting ...
not only Streetcar Named Desire is a powerful and compelling picture
its real class-act from beginning to end;
its endlessly fascinating.
its excellent in the way it depicts life and people's grim secrets and desires.
its A true milestone in cinema history
it's a classic and memorable movie experience.
on 25 April 2007
Tennesse Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire derived from a very successful Broadway Play in 1947, where the young man known as Brando made his extraordinary performance, which sent the audiences roaring, stamping on their feet and howling at his genisus of chewing gum street slicker, Stanley Kolawski.
Brando was reunited with director of the play, Elia Kazan for the film adaption in 1951, along with Karl Malden and Kim Hunter minus Jessica Tandy's plain and clear point she was mis-cast and couldn't stand up to the power of Brando, hence replaced by Vivien Leigh, who made her big comeback upon the screen.
Blanche DuBois, arrives in sweaty, jazz-orientated New Orleans to meet (and supposebly) live with her sister, Stella while she gets things sorted out. Blanche appears chidlish to Stella's jealous boyfriend where his taunting and short temperness proves too much for the pair...........
Brando as the chewing gum street slicker was practically effortless. This included narling speech which was very muffed; a horrendous devil-like chuckle; a cunningness quality and a staring posture with little eye contact with a leaning hand on the wall to emphasise a short attention span. Vivien Leigh showed a mentally troubled former school teacher in Blanche DuPois. For example, Leigh constantly used her hands to cover her face to highlight the feeling of disgust and the fear of ugliness as well as a boasting side to impress herself. Kim Hunter plays Stella as a woman who sees the arguments and make-ups with Stanley as commonplate and fails to break away as an independant mind. Karl Malden plays Butch, Stanley's best pal, who seeks the kindness in the fragile Blanche, but grows discontent with her elusive behaviour.
Kazan's theatrical setting provides a slow, riveting violent descent through the three main characters with ever winding consquences right to the very end of the piece. The themes of depression and mental illness as well as povery are seen, especially DuBoit's fear of the gastly sights and smells of the of the city and when she refuses to open up her heart to Butch, when he demands to know why she behaves like this.
The plight of physical violence in some scenes, but often happens off-screen, pushed the taboo and controversial decision to the limelight for the very first time, where the Academy board at the time, removed some of the explict content, but eventually ended up that year disbanding. The explict content was restored in 1991, with an additional four minutes running time which was stripped from the original theatrical version.
This remains one of America's finest films from the 1950s and possibly the best and most frank adaption of a Williams Play made within it's time period unlike later ones which were converted into slushy melodramas.
on 25 December 2008
Elia Kazan's adaptation of Tennessee Williams' play 'A Streetcar Named Desire' translates beautifully to the screen in this 1951 film version. Anchored primarily by screen giants Vivien Leigh (Blanche DuBois) and Marlon Brando (Stanley Kowalski), the film tells the story of a faded Southern Belle (Blanche) and her struggle to come to terms with her own existence in an increasingly faded world, and illustrates the dramatic conflict between Blanche and her brother-in-law Stanley, played by the sensual Brando.
Having directed the play just years earlier on the Broadway stage, Kazan was keen to put his own mark on this film translation, where there is an overwhelming sense of the steamy South, encapsulated and enclosed, literally, within the walls of the Kowalski apartment. Although Leigh holds her own against Method giant Brando, her performance ultimately pales into insignificance compared to Brando's revolutionary interpretation of Williams' sexually-charged hero. Not only did it signal the dawn of a style of acting unseen in film - paving the way for such performances of James Dean's Jim Stark and Paul Newman's Brick Pollitt - but represented an archtype in male sexuality and sensuality in post-war America. Wearing t-shirts that reveal rippling biceps, quite self-consciously on the part of Brando, and a body that reminds one of a modern-day Adonis, Brando stalks through Kazan's film. Certainly, it is Brando's Stanley, and not Leigh's Blanche, who becomes the eroticised object of the film, something that, it is worth noting, Williams' original play did not intend.
Through the use of lighting and sound, and through, of course, the magic of Leigh's performance, the film represents Blanche as a woman undone in the emotional and physical sense. The film tracks her emotional disintegration, choosing to use Williams' original sound effects (most notably with the Varsouviana when Blanche talks of her dead husband), and lighting and shading that come to represent the darker sides of her behaviour. Karl Malden as Mitch is also a casting masterstroke, and with Kim Hunter as Stella, the film fails not to impress with its delve into the dynamics of sexual desire and mental illness.
Brando, however, becomes the film's scene-stealer - something Williams did not originally intend in his play. Brando is just too good looking for us to perceive his character as a menace and a bully. Kazan's attempts to translate and open out Williams' play on the silver screen in a Hollywood riddled with industry censorship ultimately created a landmark in film-making. A recommended watch at the highest level!
on 21 February 2013
'A Streetcar Named Desire' is a 1951 film adaptation of the Tennessee Williams play of the same name.
Basically, the film focuses on the character of Blanche DuBois, an ageing Southern belle who arrives in the French Quarter of New Orleans to visit her sister, Stella. As the film progresses, we discover that Blanche is an extremely troubled character and the situation is not at all helped when Blanche encounters Stella's husband, Stanley Kowalski (played magnificantly by a young Marlon Brando). By the film's end, Blanche winds up in an institution and you cannot help but feel it is all because of Stanley's treatment of her.
Anyhow, onto the Blu Ray quality.
The quality of this Blu Ray is absolutely top drawer, especially considering the age of this film (1951). The picture is so crisp and clear - you could almost swear that this film was made just recently, let alone in 1951!
As for the sound, I have to say that it is pretty good - the dialogue is more or less spot on (although, I did have to put subtitles on at times when Brando spoke) and the music score (which is just as important as the dialogue, especially in this film) sounds amazing.
Overall, a fine Blu Ray transfer is guaranteed here.
Last, but not least, the Special Features here are very good. However, if I had any complaint to make, I would say that they focus a bit too much on Marlon Brando (not that that's a bad thing... with the context of this film, it certainly isn't).
Thanks for reading my review. I hope it helps.
on 16 November 2002
In "A Streetcar Named Desire" Marlon Brando as Stanley Kowalski gives what is clearly the best acting performance not to win an Academy Award (he lost to Humphrey Bogart in "The African Queen"). Vivien Leigh as Blanche DuBois, Kim Hunter as Stella Kowalski, and Karl Malden as Mitch all won in their respective acting categories. Years later, with "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" this same thing happened, with both of the ladies winning that time around.
Tennessee Williams' play is one of the major works in American drama, especially after the Second World War, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 1947 (with Jessica Tandy as Blanche the only cast change from the film; although I should point out Leigh opened the play in England on stage). Although Brando's performance is riveting, representing the new "modern" method of acting at its best, the play is really about the mental and moral disintegration of Blanche, a neurotic former Southern belle whose genteel illusions are no match for the brutish realities of her brother-in-law, Stanley. The fact that Hollywood changed the ending to reflect conventional morality remains one of the great sins in movie history, but I have always thought the fact Brando's legendary stage performance was essentially preserved on film offsets that in the final judgment. Leigh's performance is often seen as an extension of the Scarlett O'Hara role that made her famous, but of course now we know her personal life was as tortured as the character she was playing.
I heard an argument once that "A Streetcar Named Desire" was, at least on some level, a reponsible by Tennessee Williams to Eugene O'Neill's play "The Iceman Cometh" (then again, I have heard the same argument made, more forcefully to be sure, regarding Edward Albee's "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"). O'Neill's classic play deals with the human need for illusion and hope as necessary weapons against despair. If you are teaching American drama in the 20th century, then using these plays in any combination you might like could be quite provocative for your students.
Personal aside: I was in New Orleans once and actually saw the bus named "Desire," which had replaced the city streetcars. There was certainly an odd little moment.
Most significant line: It does not seem right to talk about romantic lines with any of these characters, but there is a line that is one of the greatest character epitaphs ever. Of course, this is at the end where Blanches says to the doctor, "Whoever you are, I have always depended upon the kindness of strangers." I have usually found that at some point in a play there is a line that defines the character so well it could serve as their epitaph. This line is as clear an example of what I am talking about as you could ever hope to find.
on 11 December 2003
A streetcar named desire is a masterpeice. The conflict between Stanley's brutish and untamed masculinity and Blanche's once refined but manipulative sexuality is explosive. Blanche whom after a life of death and tragedy is mentally unfit, clings helplessly to her past beauty and upbringing which contribute to the only identity she has in the world. Now her life depends on the kindness of Stanley and his wife her sister Stella who is captivated in Stanley's sexuality and masculinity which the viewer will find both attractive and repulsive. The conflict between stanley whose masculinity makes him unable to control his behaviour, is onset by blanche's constant remindings of her past position in society makes the sexual anxiety run high in this movie.