PG, 2 hr. 2 min. Directed By: Elia Kazan. Release Date: Sep 19, 1951. DVD Release Date: May 18, 1999.
I think I mentioned this in brief when I wrote about Loss of a Teardrop Diamond about a year ago. Tennessee Williams was a scandalous kind of guy. I’m thinking that he was kind of the Madonna or Lady Gaga of his day… although that’s not the world’s most flattering comparison, it’s the only one I can come up with right now. Sex, spousal abuse, rape in a few forms, mental illness. There was basically nothing the guy wouldn’t write about in sufficient detail so you could figure out exactly what he was talking about. It’s all the more scandalous when you realize that most of the television (married) couples were still sleeping in separate beds.
It was probably the scandal that kept my interest. Well, 90% of my interest, but Brando's performance was also of interest. I thought Brando was a force of nature. His character is so… primal, so raw, and he managed to pull off that uber alpha male routine in a way that wasn’t stupid. After reading a bit about the movie, that was my chief concern. Not many people can do that kind of thing in a way that doesn’t have me rolling before five minutes are up. Brando though, he managed a pretty amazing performance in the face of things.
I had an issue with Blanche. Not with Vivian Leigh, although she leaned toward what I call “classic overacting.” That kind of acting where you’re really aware that they’re “Acting” and not trying to show us what their character might really feel like? It’s not bad, it’s just not great, either. But, Blanche was the heart of the issue. There’s nothing I find attractive about a woman like that. She was… weak, completely lacking in gumption despite her airs and well, drunken insanity. I guess I’ve never been the fan of the girly girl, and I wonder if Williams wrote the character with a sort of karmic cycle in mind. I kind of want a woman who works as a ninja on weekends, so a woman who runs around passing out or in the grip of the vapors all day really isn’t going to be appealing.
I’m blanking on the sister’s name entirely, and for similar reasons. I understand, in very vague terms, the whole codependency, but I can’t imagine staying with someone who treated you that poorly. I even understand that in some sense, she had a very sexual reaction to that mistreatment. Well, I understand it academically. Personally, not so much. The rest of the time, she seemed completely absent in order to make room for the "drama" between Leigh and Brando... but I would have been just as happy if she'd been absent, or referenced in dialogue and that's it.
Basically, what I’m saying is that Brando made the movie for me, along with all the scandal and Karl Malden’s nose. It’s a great movie for all that, but I wish Williams could have written some stronger afemale characters. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a classic for a reason. Check it out.