Film Review: A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)

Release Date: September 9th, 1951 (Venice Film Festival)
Directed by: Elia Kazan
Written by: Tennessee Williams, Oscar Saul
Based on: A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams
Music by: Alex North
Cast: Vivien Leigh, Marlon Brando, Kim Hunter, Karl Malden

Charles K. Feldman Group, Warner Bros., 122 Minutes

Review:

“I don’t want realism. I want magic! Yes, yes, magic. I try to give that to people. I do misrepresent things. I don’t tell truths. I tell what ought to be truth.” – Blanche

I’m a fan of Elia Kazan’s noir movies but I had never seen this picture, which really isn’t noir, but it employs a similar visual style and pacing.

This is considered one of Kazan’s best films, alongside On the Waterfront, which also stars Marlon Brando and is also a movie I haven’t seen.

This motion picture is about a woman, who had fallen on really hard and tragic times, moving in with her sister and her sister’s husband in New Orleans. This woman, Blanche, lost her husband to suicide and it’s alluded to that he was gay. However, she tells her sister that she is on leave from her teaching job due to anxiety.

As the story rolls on, we learn that Blanche is full of shit and she often times embellishes and flat out lies about things because she is hiding how screwed up she and her life is. Granted, she does this more to convince herself and live in a fantasy world. But this does draw the ire of the husband, Stanley.

Stanley is a gruff asshole most of the time but he does love his wife and doesn’t like this interloper, who has her claws too deeply into his romantic and social life since she moved in on a lie.

Their dislike of each other grows with each passing scene and it culminates in a physical fight where it’s alluded to that Stanley probably raped her. In the Broadway play, he did rape her but in the film, due to the morality code, such things couldn’t happen onscreen.

The ending is really tragic and hard to watch but everything falls apart for everyone but for each person, it’s also probably for the best, looking at the bigger picture.

One thing that stands out in this picture, above all else, is how stupendous the acting is between Marlon Brando, Vivien Leigh, Kim Hunter and Karl Malden. There are some powerful scenes throughout this movie and honestly, there aren’t any weak or wasted ones. Everything in this has purpose and thanks to Kazan’s direction, he really got the absolute best out of his core cast.

The film also looks amazing, even if it mostly takes place in a very dilapidated apartment in the French Quarter. The New Orleans architecture really gives the movie a very specific and very lived in world that probably felt somewhat exotic to those in the 1950s that had never been down to Cajun country.

In the end, this isn’t my favorite Elia Kazan picture but it is still really damn good and you become pretty immersed in this world he crafted for the big screen.

It’s also hard to believe that this was just Brando’s second film. The guy had “it” from the get go.

Rating: 8/10