For Reel

A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
January 16, 2017, 8:55 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Elia Kazan
3 Stars
a-streetcar-named-desireAlthough the rationality of method acting is that it brings both performer and audience closer to “truth”, it would be an error to mistake the grit, sweat, and raw power of A Streetcar Named Desire as aspiring for any semblance of realism. Director Elia Kazan’s theatricalities are often the entry-point into his best work. Here, despite Marlon Brando’s performance, it is the claustrophobic sensationalizing of the setting that defines the tone of the piece—it is a world of such essential unreality that it transcends the grounded issues of class envy and primal sexuality. Kazan’s artistic contradictions (striving for both style and authenticity) is the excuse for the wide array of performances in the film. If Vivien Leigh’s performance as Blanche is justifiably different than her co-stars from a narrative perspective, her theatricality creates a disconnect when matched with Kim Hunter’s understated, quiet performance as Stella. As a result of competing interests, the film is emotionally incomprehensible throughout, whereas the similarly manic Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? renders the domestic theatrical in a convincing way because there is more unity in each of the project’s elements. Regardless, Streetcar can not be overlooked if only because of the unusual mood it establishes in the Kowalski home, and on the level of sheer camp there is enjoyment to be had in ways sexuality and toxicity are hardly discernible.

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