DVD - Image A Sound A Extras A+
BLU-RAY Image B+ Sound A+ Extras A+
starring Vivien Leigh, Marlon Brando, Kim Hunter, Karl Malden
screenplay by Tennessee Williams, based on his play
directed by Elia Kazan
by Walter Chaw Marlon Brando is liquid sex in A Streetcar Named Desire, molten and mercurial. He's said that he modeled his Stanley Kowalski after a gorilla, and the manner in which Stanley eats, wrist bent at an almost fey angle, picking at fruit and leftovers in the sweltering heat of Elia Kazan's flophouse New Orleans, you can really see the primate in him. (Imagine a gorilla smelling a flower.) Brando's Stanley is cunning, too: he sees through the careful artifice of his sister-in-law Blanche (Vivien Leigh, Old Hollywood), and every second he's on screen, everything else wilts in the face of him. It's said that Tennessee Williams used to buy front-row seats to his plays and then laugh like a loon at his rural atrocities; he's something like the Shakespeare of sexual politics, the poet laureate of repression, and in his eyes, he's only ever written comedies. In Kazan's and Brando's too, I'd hazard, as A Streetcar Named Desire elicits volumes of delighted laughter. The way that Stanley's "acquaintances" are lined up in his mind to appraise the contents of Blanche's suitcase. The way he invokes "Napoleonic Law" with beady-eyed fervour. And the way, finally, that he's right about Blanche and all her hysterical machinations. The moment Stanley introduces himself to Blanche is of the shivers-causing variety (like the moment John Ford zooms up to John Wayne in Stagecoach), but my favourite parts of the film--aside from his torn-shirt "STELLA!"--are when Stanley screeches like a cat, and when he threatens violence on the jabbering Blanche by screaming, "Hey, why don't you cut the re-bop!"