Saturday, July 4, 2009

A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE (Elia Kazan, 1951, USA) A tattered curtain separates Blanche from the mechanical curse of nymphomaniacal desire, her body ridden like a streetcar, and the beckoning whisper of death. From the now deserted and lost ancestral home, her aging corpse wanders towards paradise…but no heroic spirits populate this Elysian Field. The demanding orders of soldier’s haunt her dreams as she tries to escape from herself, only to discover that her final resting place will reside in the hands of kind strangers. Stanley Kowalski is an abuser, an intensely possessive and egocentric man who “always bangs things around”: a double entendre that reveals his impulse to supplant sex with violence. Stanley is a classic wife-beater: from extreme outbursts to sudden apologetic cries in the night, he has Stella completely under his control. He is a man who replaces love with dominance, and Stella confuses tenderness with submissiveness. When Stella says that Stanley broke all of the light bulbs on their wedding night with the heel of her shoe, we discover the machismo wrathfulness and male entitlement that exudes from his very pores, soaking his shirt (and wife…now an object he owns) with pungent perspiration. Stella’s meek infatuation is assailed when Blanche appears and Stella becomes self-assertive. A homosexual riptide pulls the audience into the narrative depths as Blanche declares her scandalous past, the suicide of her effeminate ex-husband, testing the manliness (re: heterosexuality) of her suitor Mitch. Director Eli Kazan’s excellent compositions help this talky adaptation transcend its origins, framing Brando in tight sweaty close-ups while portraying the aging Vivian Leigh in darkness and shadows. Kazan brings the night alive with throbbing sounds and thick heat amid the ubiquitous whistling streetcar that trolleys its passengers through this barbaric Tartarus. The film’s subtext can be read as the dissolution of the patriarchal family unit, as Stella is finally able to escape her bondage and take the newborn baby boy upwards…from this pit of despair. (A)

1 comment:

Rupert Alistair said...

Excellent concise analysis of a powerful film. This movie just reeks of electricity. Great post, thanks.