Haved just finished watching for the fourth time this masterpiece. A Streetcar Named Desire was originally a play by Tennessee Williams
, one of my favourite American playwrights. It was made into a movie in 1951 by director Elia Kazan
, with Tennessee Williams himself as the scriptwriter, and starred Vivien Leigh
as Blanche Dubois and Marlon Brando
as Stanley Kowalski. The film won 4 Oscars
, three of which are in the acting categories: Best Actress (Vivien Leigh), Best Supporting Actor (Karl Malden) and Best Supporting Actress (Kim Hunt). Marlon Brando was slighted in the Oscars, but he remains one of the main reasons to watch this movie: for his sheer animal charm as Stanley Kuwolski.
Plot?... I never liked to talk much about plots. Briefly, Blanch Dubois, a destitute, fading beauty, arrives in New Orleans to stay with her sister Stella, who's married to Stanley Kowalski. Blanche is repelled by the coarseness of her sister's surroundings, while Stanley, insulted by her airs, starts digging up nasty bits of Blanche's less than perfect past. Ok, with that done, let's talk themes. To quoteWilliams loosely, it's about the exploitation of the weak by the harsh forces of modern society. The weak, symbolised by Blanche, thrives in the half-light, in the comforting shade, in the crumbling memories of the Old Order, and in the decorated imagination of Blanche's fantasies. This fragile world is thrown against the harsh naked lights of Stanley's world of the factory, the bowling alley, the poker party, the unforgiving, sordid industrial world.
The movie was pretty controversial in its time, for its references to Blanche's sexual adventures and also for its amoral ending. Elia Kazan and Tennesse William had to make a few concessions to the prevailing public moral watchdogs in the movie version, but it is still a major milestone for social realism in the movies.