A Streetcar Named Desire
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Blanche Dubois (Vivien Leigh) – an aging Southern Belle, travels to New Orleans to visit her sister Stella (Kim Hunter), and her uncouth, brutish husband, Stanley (Marlon Brando). Stanley takes an immediate disliking to the somewhat snobbish, but ultimately innocent Blanche, and his boorishness puts a strain on both his marriage, and Blanche’s sanity.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE will forever and always be known as the film that introduced the world to Marlon Brando. Being an aficionado of classic film, it’s easy to see why Brando, with his hyper-masculine (but at the same time- effeminate in a way that suggests a subtext to the role none of his contemporaries would have dared undertake) demeanor, and ultra-realistic, method approach to the role would have absolutely rocked Hollywood in the fifties. He’s the cinematic equivalent of the Beat Poets, in that he single-handedly changed everyone’s perception of what an actor should be- and within a few years, the screens would be littered with Brando clones- to the extent that even someone like Paul Newman spent his first few films imitating Brando (especially in SOMEBODY UP THERE LIKES ME).
Truly, he’s magnetic here- but take away Brando, and you’re still left with a heck of a lot of good material. Tennessee Williams’ play- turned screenplay was one of numerous, iconic pieces of work he contributed to the stage and screen- with each of them being a clever deconstruction of the American male (with heroes including a defrocked priest in NIGHT OF THE IGUANA, or the closeted scion of a southern family in CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF). Pair that with Elia Kazan’s minimalist direction, and a another terrific performance by Vivien Leigh (in a part she was tragically doomed to live out in real life), and you have a hell of a film.
The extras here are all ported over from the stacked two-disc DVD that came out a few years ago. First is a commentary track of spliced together anecdotes and interview. Most intriguing is Elia Kazan: A Director’s Journey - made in the mid-nineties, and features extensive interviews with the now-deceased Kazan, where he weighs in on everything from his films, to his controversial HUAC testimony in the fifties. Next are to twenty minute featurettes, A Streetcar on Broadway , and A Streetcar in Hollywood examining the impact each version of Streetcar made in their respective incarnations. Censorship & Desire examines the way STREETCAR flaunted the still powerful production code at the time- which opened the floodgates for a lot of other films to do the same. There’s also a featurette on composer Alex North, who’s seedy score for STREETCAR is famous in its own right. There’s also outtakes , some of which are only audio, trailers and most intriguing, a vintage screen test that Brando made years before STREETCAR, when he was under consideration for a Warner’s contract. There’s also a really brief featurette on Brando- and that’s the only thing about the set that I find disappointing, as something more through was needed here. The 2 part, four hour TCM documentary on Brando, which has never hit DVD or even been repeated, should have been included- but it’s not.
If you’ve never experienced A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE, than now is the time, and it gets a great presentation on Blu-ray. While I think Brando’s best work is still the later ON THE WATERFRONT, and the later still one-two punch of THE GODFATHER and LAST TANGO IN PARIS, this is one of his most iconic parts- and a master class in the method. See it.