22 Feb

This Wednesday is the last week of the films of Elia Kazan. To end the opening presentation for Melbourne Cinematheque for 2012 is A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) and East of Eden (1955)- two films which expertly catch Kazan’s sense of alienataion and prejudice.

With A Streetcar Named Desire Kazan successfully turned his praised stage production of the Tennessee Williams’ play into an acclaimed film which won four Academy Awards and was heavily censored of many of the underlying themes in Williams’ play. The film focuses on Blanche DuBois (Vivien Leigh)- a drug-addicted alcoholic who is running from her past and lives in a self-created fantasy world- and the impact she has upon her sister Stella (Kim Hunter) and Stella’s husband Stanley (Marlon Brando) when she arrives at their New Orleans home. Blanche still sees herself as the desirable Southern girl of her youth who ought to be treated with respect and dignity, yet in the French Quarter where she now finds herself, Stanley and his friends refuse to play into her fantasy world causing palpable tension for everyone present.

East of Eden is the (admittedly loose) film adaption of the John Steinbeck novel which is a take on the Cain and Abel story of the Old Testament. Set in 1917 California, Cal (James Dean in his first major film role) is resentful that his father appears to favour his do-good brother Aron (Richard Davalos). Cal has also recently become aware that their mother has not died, as is told to them by their businessman father, but is actually an alcoholic who runs a brothel in a neighbouring town. The injustices he faces at home mount and Cal’s teenage angst, loneliness and jealousy increases to dangerous levels as he begins to act out in harmful and unexpected ways. Yet despite all of this he only wants to do goof by his family and make his father proud.


One Response to “ELIA KAZAN, THE OUTSIDER- week 3”

  1. Katia Baghai March 12, 2012 at 4:44 am #

    Focus On American Intellectual Film-Classics. Elia Kazan/Tennessee Williams’ “A Streetcar Named Desire” (1951) As An Unintended American Dystopia – From Streetcar As A Metaphor of Blanche’s Sublime Desire to Streetcar-Stanley

    Forerunners of Innocent Thugs In Politics, Business, Finance, War-making, Media and Religious Preaching In US of 21st Century
    “A Streetcar Named Desire” by Elia Kazan/Tennessee Williams (1951) is a courageously truthful representation of human emotions and psychology of (sexual) love, as well as the reality of psychological rivalry and fight for getting more prestigious public image than the opponent has. But the film is much more than this. It is a merciless depiction of deeply rooted American archetypes of the “innocent lout”, the “machoistic sentimentality”, and the “misperception of dissimilarity as animosity” (leading to a belligerent posture towards the inclusive democratic concept of human community). These three cultural archetypes (personified by the main character Stanley Kowalski) are reservoirs of antagonistic energy inside a democratic society that targets humanistic education (liberal arts), serious culture and the educated people in general.
    Stanley, an immigrant and a worker, is overfilled by social inferiority complex and unconsciously tries to justify his lack of education and hate for politeness and psychological refinement with the pride of belonging to the demos of the democracy. He feels that he represents the real democratic future and scapegoats Blanche, his wife’s sister and a school-teacher, as a woman with a morally ambiguous personal reputation. By doing this he pampers his self-esteem and his image in the eyes of those around as more American than Americans with cultural interests (“liberal elite”).
    Tennessee Williams and Elia Kazan were able to point out the most disturbing American psycho-cultural trends – contempt for cultural education, intolerance for otherness and dissimilarity, disgust for pluralism of opinions and life styles, and proclivity to treat disagreements with targeting the other side as enemy.
    Only recently, in 21st century, we can understand how tragically prophetic “A Streetcar… Desire” is for our country – today Stanley’s Kowalskies are ruling US as conservative politicians, right wing talk show hosts (paid by the inexhaustible corporate profits) and Wall Street schemers. All these people went out of Marlon Brando’s Streetcar-Stanley. We need to return to this amazing film to understand better what’s happening with our country and what exactly psychological powers try to intervene in our future.
    Victor Enyutin

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