Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A Streetcar Named Desire

I did now know what to expect when I started watching A streetcar named desire, by Elia Kazan, released in 1951, and starring Vivien Leigh and a god-like Marlon Brando. I had half-expected a love story, and barely read the synopsis, based on a play by Tenessee Williams. Shame on me.  This black and white movie requires full attention: get distracted for a few seconds and you'll miss something.  
Blanche DuBois moves in with her sister Stella in New Orleans. Stella is married to rough Stanley, and for two hours, the mesmerized spectator watches as Blanche's life falls into pieces and as she, inexorable, loses all sense of reality. Being someone who likes things said as they are, bluntly, it was a bit difficult for me to understand everything and see "behind the scene" what's really happening. For instance, I missed the fact that her late husband was gay, and I definitely missed the rape, barely evoked.  Blanche is the center of the story: at first she seems pure and innocent, but we discover her self-conscious and lonely, and watch her degrade as the movie goes by. She longs for companionship and almost finds it, but her past comes back and ruins all prospects for a "second chance".   Stanley is the one that makes her fall, as he forces her to face reality, a reality she is incapable of handling. As a result she retreats into her perfect world and loses her grip completely.
So indeed, the story is complex, and covers a lot of psychological themes that are not the topic of this entry, and I could not keep my eyes off the screen: both actors are tremendous, and, in spite of his quite unpleasant character, thank God for Marlon Brando! 
On some level, I was able to relate to Blanche, who wears a mask to present a perfect image to the world, and holds on to it even though it is crumbling, as she is simply looking for happiness. Again, the last word is for her: 
"I don't want realism. I want magic!"


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