Saturday nights on long weekends are rather wonderful, don’t you think? … Of course any Saturday night is a delight, but knowing there’s an extra day to be spent however you wish, just makes them seem so much more luxuriant. It was on such a Saturday night that I took the opportunity to watch a film I’ve been meaning to catch up with for years – ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’. After seeing Marlon Brando in ‘On the Waterfront’ a few months ago, I was pretty sure his performance here would be equally mesmerising (and I was right).
Sitting down to prepare this piece got me thinking that I used to write about movies so much more than I do now. In fact I used to watch many more movies than I do now. That’s such a shame, because I really love movies. I grew up with a love of film, and thought there was little better than an afternoon spent at the cinema. Now though, the ridiculous expense and pain of having to deal with ‘other people’ tends to put me off going out to the movies regularly, and time is my enemy when it comes to watching movies at home.
Anyway, back to ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’. Firstly, it’s brilliantly cast … Kim Hunter as Stella Kowalski, offers a perfectly measured performance as the unfortunate person caught between the conflicts of her husband and her sister. Marlon Brando is the noisy, messy Stanley Kowalski, whose animal magnetism often borders on, and sometimes goes far beyond that of aggressively brutish behaviour. While Vivien Leigh as Blanche DuBois is about as far removed from her role in ‘Gone With the Wind’ as I could imagine. She is fragile, troubled and emotionally unstable.
There are lots of themes to explore here – violence and power, lust and love, honesty and deceit, passion and madness, loneliness and marriage … but the one I still find myself thinking on relates to the unmasking of one’s true self. More specifically, the dangerous circumstances that can arise when an unlikely person sees our true character – with all our flaws and weaknesses exposed. This is the situation that Stanley and Blanche find themselves in … she sees him for what he is, and he sees her. In fact, she states this in an early scene, where Blanche says to Stanley (of Stella), ‘the poor thing was out there listening to us, and I have an idea she doesn’t understand you as well as I do’. However it is the way that Blanche and Stanley each respond to this character ‘threat’ through action rather than conversation, which highlights the vast differences that lie between them.
This is a film filled with rich, interesting elements. There are many memorable moments brought about through strong character performances, or something as subtle as a change in lighting or costume … not to mention the fantastic source material the script is drawn from (Tennessee Williams crafts the crispest of dialogue). Oh, and that scene where Stella practically oozes down the stairs towards the waiting Stanley, who then falls to his knees before her … well that scene kills me.
Since discovering that the film is a slightly sanitised version of the original play, it leaves me very much wanting to see a full stage production at some point – now that would be a powerful production! … Enough about me and my movie-watching experiences, how about you? Have you watched any interesting movies lately?