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A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) is a controversial film classic, adapted from Tennessee Williams Pulitzer Prize-winning play of 1947. Elia Kazan, a socially conscious director who insisted that the film be true to the play, directed this film. The film challenged the censors with its bold adult drama and sexual subjects (rape, domestic violence, and female promiscuity) it is the story of the mental and emotional demise of a delicate Southern lady. Her downfall in the filthy French Quarter apartment of her sister and beastly husband is at the hands of savage and brutal forces in modern society. In refuge she finds that her sister lives with drunkenness, violence and ignorance.
The main character roles were played with remarkable performances Vivien Leigh who recreated her role from the London production of the play portrayed the Southern belle heroine. Kim Hunters role as her sister (a role she originally played on Broadway) was pivotal, and Marlon Brando, recreating his Broadway role, delivers an overpowering, memorable performance. Set in New Orleans, the film opens with the arrival of a train and southern belle Blanche DuBois she has taken the train to the city. As a joyous wedding party runs by in the station, Blanche appears out of a cloud of steam emitted by the train engine, carrying her suitcase. Blanche is frail and in a neurotic emotional state. In her very first lines, she expresses her confusion to a young sailor, mentioning three streetcar stops, which symbolize her desperate situation.
The streetcar (named Desire after Desire Street) takes her to her sister Stella DuBois Kowalski's apartment in New Orleans French Quarter. She has come for a visit, she is surprised at the downstairs living accommodations of her sister, a small, shabby two-room place in a run-down neighborhood. She finds her sister at the local bowling alley where her brother-in-law Stanley is bowling. After hugging each other, Blanche worries about her appearance. Stella Kowalski Blanches younger sister, with the same timeworn aristocratic heritage, but who has jumped the sinking ship and linked her life with lower-class vitality. Her union with Stanley is animal and spiritual, violent but renewing.
She cannot really explain it to Blanche. While she loves her older sister, and pities her, she cannot bring herself to believe Blanches accusation against Stanley. Though it is agony, she has her sister committed Stella has turned her back on her aristocratic background, and found happiness by marrying a working class, Polish immigrant husband Stanley Kowalski. Blanches first glimpse of the loud, coarse, and brutish Stanley is on the bowling lanes.
A fight erupts and Stanley is in the middle of a rough controversy with some of the other players but Stella admires him. Stella is caught in between the two opposing worlds of Blanche and her husband, Stanley. She is also a pawn in the struggle between Blanche and Stanley. Stella is a passive and gentlewoman.
Into this environment enters one of the screens most unforgettable characters, Blanche DuBois, played flawlessly by Vivien Leigh. Blanche is an aging Southern belle, a relic from an age gone by. Shes flighty and chatters on about this and that with an air of someone with a great deal of experience talking without a thing to say. She comes to stay with her sister Stella and her husband in the city after having lost possession of their family's old country plantation. In their dilapidated, stripped-down apartment, Blanche sticks out like a sore thumb, with her trunk of out-of-fashion furs and lace garments and her pitiful efforts to improve the place. At one point, she covers a bare light bulb with a paper lampshade, more, we suspect, out of a desire to have a softer light shining on her aging features than to soften the harshness of the apartment.
The contrast between the harsh, tangible atmosphere of the apartment and its inhabitants with Blanches fantasy-world of what might have been is, in essence, what Streetcar is all about. Blanches character is more complicated than she would like everyone to believe. The image Blanche shows the world is sad enough, that of the former social debutante who somehow failed to get a husband and has now become an old maid, her much relied upon looks failing, especially when the old maid in question is being played by Scarlett OHara herself. As the film moves on, we learn more about Blanches past. We hear of a disreputable hotel where she was met by many different men and something about a much younger mans involvement at the school where she taught.
At one point, a newspaperman, a very young man, visits the apartment, and Blanches demeanor is very suggestive and is clear that she desires him. Then comes the admission, to a prospective suitor, the timid Mitch. It is clear that Blanche has had her fair share of desire in her life, but now, aging and alone, shes at the end of her rope. She is a fascinating character, hiding from the harshness of reality in fantasies and reveries about that way things used to be, only to be driven to madness by reality's crashing in on her in the form of Stanley Kowalski.
His base nature, his dismissal of even the slightest affectations, and, of course, the ultimate act of his reality, his climactic attack on her, leave her incapable of facing the world as it exists; she can only go through the motions of the way things used to be. Stanley is the epitome of vital force. He is a man in the flush of life, a lover of women, a worker, a fighter, new blood chief male of the flock, with his tail feathers fanned and brilliant. He is loyal to his friends, passionate to his wife, and heartlessly cruel to Blanche.
Stanley, of course, deals with all of this in his own way, shouting and throwing things, but always regretting any harm done to Stella. It isnt long into the film that the famous scene plays itself out, with Stanley having been angered during a late night poker session by the womens coming home and making noise in the next room. Throwing a radio through a window, he drags Stella through a doorway, and we see that he is hitting her. Stella, of course, flees the house, and hides upstairs with the neighbors. Once Stanley's calmed down, he goes out into the street and calls to her painfully, Stella! Hey, Stella!
Stella's reaction gives it a unique and unexpected nuance. As she slowly descends the stairs, she looks down at Stanley with an expression not of pity, not even of anger, but of bare desire. A Street Car Named Desire presents three colorful, intense and passion filled characters. The slowly slipping mental state of Blanche mixed with the animal brutality of Stanley provides for riveting attachment to the characters.
Stanley's relationship with his wife Stella makes you feel their desire for each other. The quick picture of Blanches life that we see in this movie, is the worst part of her life, we see her at the climax of her failing mental health. This is a classic movie that will live on in forever.
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Research essay sample on Streetcar Named Desire Blanche Dubois