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A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE

Director: ELIA KAZAN

U.S.A. • 1951 • BLACK AND WHITE • 35MM • 125 MIN


DIRECTOR ELIA KAZAN’S CLASSIC FILM OF TENNESSEE WILLIAMS’ PLAY IS RE-RELEASED IN A NEW 35MM PRINT.

Most dramatists would be gratified to create just one enduring character per play, but in A Streetcar Named Desire, Tennessee Williams created two unforgettable ones: Blanche DuBois, a fading Southern belle whose past is pursuing her like the Furies, and her brother-in-law Stanley Kowalski, in whose home she is compelled to seek refuge and who embodies everything she despises about the modern world. The stage is set for a titanic struggle between the two, on his part to save his marriage and on hers to save her life. Although somewhat softened for the screen, Elia Kazan’s film still delivers the play’s essential fetid claustrophobia in all its terror.

‘Blanche is a butterfly in a jungle looking for protection,’ Kazan said of her, and her fate represents what Williams called the ‘ravishment of the tender, the sensitive and the delicate by the savage and brutal forces of modern society.’ Vivien Leigh is all fragile femininity whilst Marlon Brando is all moody machismo: their performances are as near perfect as one could hope for and set the standard by which all subsequent productions have been tested and judged. One should not forget either the fine support of Kim Hunter as Stanley’s wife, torn between a husband and sister whom she loves, and Karl Malden as Stanley’s friend and Blanche’s potential saviour who strips away the last veil of her illusion. Atmospherically photographed by Boris Kaufman and with a brooding, innovative jazz score from Alex North, this film version of one of the landmarks of American theatre became, and has remained, one of the landmarks of Hollywood realism. — Neil Sinyard.

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