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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 15, No. 10. June 11, 1952

Film Review ... — "A Streetcar Named Desire" — A Revelation

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Film Review ...

"A Streetcar Named Desire"

A Revelation

After the fiasco of Tennessee Williams" first filmed play "The Glass Menagerie," "A Streetcar Named Desire" came as a revelation. It proved that the film industry Can, if it wants to, pull itself together, ignore the piddling demands of the bourgeois box-office mind, and produce an intelligent first-class film.

Written in 1947 the play uses as its medium the proletariat quarter of New Orleans to give a realistic picture of the type of personality that has grown up after, and as a direct result of, the last war. As the film was able to give a greater number of pictures of the surrounding environment than a play could, this theme was much heightened and intensified as a result.

The leading male was Stanley Kowaiski, a heavily muscled "animal" type of person, primarily concerned with the immediate physical and sensual pleasures of life. In him was epitomised the mental attitude to life of the post-war civillanised soldier. On to the basis of bitter cruelty learned during his army life the film deftly shows how the influences of his present environment—continually flicking neon signs, never-ending jazz from a nearby dance-hall, the perpetual plinking of an elusive piano, continual fights, brawls and general noises—have built up such an emotional pitch within him that, whenever a problem presents itself or he becomes frustrated, the only way out for him is to purge his feelings by temporarily losing control of his senses in a fit of schizophrenic insanity. During this time he smashes out his anger upon the object of his rage, or anything else in the vicinity. This is the character that is played to perfection by Marlon Brando. Never throughout the film is his performance out of character, or lacking in consistency. It is a perfect example of a part thoroughly thought out to the last detail and competently interpreted.

Stanley's wife Stella (Kim Hunter) was a refreshing change from the usual film where a woman cannot conceivably be in love unless she has also the looks and charm of a modern Cleopatra. Temperamentally, present constituted is probably as band—irreligious, a little naive, sensuous, uninhibited and violently infatuated with Stanley's physical presence so that she, in her own words, "... could not bear to be away from him for more than a day." She accepted him as he was, totally and completely, putting up with his rages as best she could.

The part of Stella's sister, Blanche Dubois, was taken by Vivien Leigh. She portrayed an ex-schoolteacher who had, after being turned out of her profession, set herself up in an hotel, which "... had the advantage of not interfering with the personalities there," as a rather high-class prostittue. However, as Stanley remarked. "... even the management was impressed by Dame Blanche," and requested her to leave, whereupon she turned up at "Elysian Fields," her sister's slum home. The story in the film deals primarily with her attempt to inveigle Stanley's friend. Mitch (Karl Maiden) into believing that she is sweet, twenty-one and pure so that he will marry her. Stanley, however, "wises up" his friend "on certain points" concerning her character. Blanche's last semblance of sanity disappears when Mitch, savagely angry at having been deceived, confronts her with his information. After ho has gone Stanley comes home, after having visited the hospital where Stella is about to have a baby, and rapes her. The film ends with Blanche being removed to an asylum.

As can be imagined this part gives ample opportunity for Vivien Leigh's special seductive talents. She is better in this part than I have seen her in any other film. I forgot Vivien Leigh, forgot to think "What brilliant acting," and saw only Blanche Dubois, a neurotic little schoolteacher, completely bewildered by the world she found herself in, gradually losing control of her mind and drinking herself into insanity.

Another remarkable feature was the way in which the script stuck exactly to the original play. No pandering to the public here. The producer followed the original theme with rigid conscientiousness.

Because of the concentrated nature of this script, every line, every word, almost, being significant, and the intense emotional situation maintained at all times, I felt at the end as if I had just played a very strenuous game of football. Literally, it wore me out. Whether this was the desired result or not I do not know but it seems to me that the audience could well have been given a few "rest periods" between each assault into the emotional breach. Perhaps, however, it is merely a commentary on the laxity of attention and alertness that has been cultivated by the spate of superficial films on the market.

One fault was rather annoying. Whether it lay with the actors or the theatre reproducer, it is difficult to say, but at times it was almost impossible to make out what the speakers, usually Stanley and Blanche, were saying. Their words were slurred and so heavily accented that their speech often often became a meaningless jumble.

Primarily the idea of the film was to point out by means of an intimate study of its characters the social factors that wreak their havoc on the minds of the individuals within society. It is perhaps an attempt to clarify some of the reasons for the present sick American society.