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A Streetcar Named Desire (Original Director's

A movie directed by Elia Kazan

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The Kindness of Strangers

  • May 8, 2007
"A Streetcar Named Desire"

The Kindness of Strangers

Amos Lassen and Cinema Pride

I have wanted to review this film for a long time and now that I am on vacation, I decided it was time for a New Orleans guy to try to have his say. I recently brought home the wonderful seven volume DVD set of "The Tennessee Williams Film Collection" and have been working my way through reacquainting myself with some of the greatest films ever made. I knew Williams when I lived in Louisiana and followed his career the best I could ad I must say that "Streetcar" is a masterpiece.
Set in the French Quarter of New Orleans during the years following WW II, "A Streetcar Named Desire" is the story of Blanche DuBois, a neurotic and fragile woman who is searching for a place in the world that she can call her own. Her past is not pretty--she has been exiled from her hometown for seducing a 17 year old student at the school where she taught. He suddenly appears at the home of her sister Stella and her husband Stanley stating that she is suffering from exhaustion. She has been beleaguered by financial calamities but Stanley is suspicious since some of the money that is gone also belongs to his wife and therefore himself. Stanley is a brute of a man and a panther. When he demands to see the bill of sale for the family plantation, Belle Reve, he defines his relationship with Blanche. They are in opposing camps and Stella is caught between the love of her sister and the love of her husband. When Blanche tries to help improve their relations, the animal in Stanley emerges and he is enraged. He deeply loves his wife but he is mystified by Blanche and is determined to teach her a lesson.
Blanche sees a way out of her troubles when she meets Mitch, a card playing pal of Stanley. Mitch reveres her but the rumors of her past begin to catch up to her and everything falls apart for Blanche.
The cast of the film is absolutely magic. Kim Hunter is Stella and she is magnificent. She is strong even though she is financially, sexually and emotionally tied to her husband and Stanley is somewhat emotionally dependent upon her. Stanley's performance is one of the best supporting roles ever seen on the screen and she acts with every nuance of her mid and body.
Vivien Leigh is a total revelation. When she spoke, I was mystified. She is a victim but everything but innocent. She charms, she touches, and she emotes with a wonderful presence. The sexual attraction between her ad Marlon Brando as Stanley is quite noticeable and despite all of her lies ad deceptions, I was drawn to her. She is the human condition--she is hidden ugliness from the past and emotional and sexual neediness as well as ordinary human weakness. Leigh's performance is brilliant but we must remember that it is the author who created the character. It is, however, Vivien Leigh who gives it life.
Brando as Stanley is magnificent with his breakthrough performance. His performance is without fault but this is Leigh's movie. Her Blanche is profound as she clings to a very flimsy fa├žade of respectability. When Leigh says she "wants magic" it is a cry from the very depth of the actress's feeling and when she says she has always "depended on the kindness of strangers', we want to hold out her hands and hearts to her.
The writing is some of the finest we have ever seen--the characters are beautifully written and their story s dutifully told. Their complexities are written into them but with subtlety so that they are never obvious or uninteresting.
Elia Kazan directed with a caution heretofore unseen on the screen. How he managed to get this movie made in the early 1950's is a mystery but we should be so thankful that he did. Of course, the homosexual subplot was played down but it is graphic in its violence to women and animal sexuality. It is a compelling movie because the characters are compelling and the way we see them. The film feels humid helping to play up the sexuality therein. The entire atmosphere is wonderful and mesmerizing.
"A Streetcar Named Desire" is nothing short of a great film in which everything works. It was a superb play which successfully made the transition to the screen because of a marvelous cast and outstanding direction. There is not much that I can say that has not been said already over and over again. Let it suffice for me to say, yet once again, that "Streetcar" is magnificent in every aspect and is a landmark film in the world of cinema.

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More A Streetcar Named Desire (1951... reviews
Quick Tip by . March 02, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
An astounding adaptation of the classic Tennessee Williams' play that stands the test of time 60 years later. Marlon Brando gives a performance that sizzles with sexuality, seething anger, and insecurity. Kim Hunter is terrific as Stella.   Elia Kazan, the original director of the play, brought all of Williams' brilliant, poetic realism to the screen in a remarkable film powered by a great cast. Even after the film was censored during its initial release, it still had the power …
review by . August 01, 2003
posted in Movie Hype
For various reasons, I have never liked either the play or the film on which it is based but remain fascinated with the human experiences which Tennessee Williams examines. The character of Stanley Kowalski (Marlon Brando) dominates the narrative but his wife Stella (Kim Hunter) really is the stronger person. Pregnant, she is visited by her sister Blanche Dubois (Vivien Leigh) who arrives with enough emotional baggage to keep a regiment of psychotherapists busy. She and Stanley have an immediate …
About the reviewer
Amos Lassen ()
Ranked #210
I am an academic who reivews movies and books of interest to the GLBT and Jewish communities.   I came to Arkansas after having been relocated here due to Hurricane Katrina. I was living in … more
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Looking for a benchmark in movie acting? Breakthrough performances don't come much more electrifying than Marlon Brando's animalistic turn as Stanley Kowalski inA Streetcar Named Desire.Sweaty, brutish, mumbling, yet with the balanced grace of a prizefighter, Brando storms through the role--a role he had originated in the Broadway production of Tennessee Williams's celebrated play. Stanley and his wife, Stella (as in Brando's oft-mimicked line, "Hey, Stellaaaaaa!"), are the earthy couple in New Orleans's French Quarter whose lives are upended by the arrival of Stella's sister, Blanche DuBois (Vivien Leigh). Blanche, a disturbed, lyrical, faded Southern belle, is immediately drawn into a battle of wills with Stanley, beautifully captured in the differing styles of the two actors. This extraordinarily fine adaptation won acting Oscars for Leigh, Kim Hunter (as Stella), and Karl Malden (as Blanche's clueless suitor), but not for Brando. Although it had already been considerably cleaned up from the daringly adult stage play, director Elia Kazan was forced to trim a few of the franker scenes he had shot. In 1993,Streetcarwas rereleased in a "director's cut" that restored these moments, deepening a film that had already secured its place as an essential American work.--Robert Horton
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Director: Elia Kazan
Genre: Classics, Drama
Screen Writer: Tennessee Williams, Oscar Saul
DVD Release Date: March 26, 1997
Runtime: 122 minutes
Studio: Warner Home Video
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