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"Funerals are pretty compared to deaths",
This review is from: A Streetcar Named Desire  [DVD] (DVD)
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.