Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Best Actor 1951: Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire

Marlon Brando received his first Oscar nomination for portraying Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire.

A Streetcar named Desire is a brilliant film about a mentally troubled aging Southern Belle Blanche (Vivien Leigh) who goes to stay with her sister Stella (Kim Hunter), and her husband Stanley.

This here is a performance that is so hailed, and so examined, this review seems not to matter all that much. I mean Brando's style in this film is to have said to change acting, and this is said to be one of the greatest performances of all time. Well I guess what I should examine if it is the greatest, and look at a few criticism that I have happened to seen from a few small sources.

Well what are these criticisms, well that Stanley is too simplistic of a character for this to be that great of a performance. Well I do believe that Stanley probably is the simplest of Blanche, Stella, and Blanche's possible suitor Mitch (Karl Malden), but that does not at all mean that Stanley is an underwritten character. He is very much complex in his own way, but he is simple in his manner and actions. His manner and actions always are perfectly Stanley, though, and Stanley really is a perfectly written character even if he is a relatively simple man.

I think the somewhat simple nature of Stanley is what makes Brando's performance so fascinating, though, since so much of it is in his style. Anything that Stanley does Brando does indeed make interesting through just the completely original, yet natural way he does everything in the film. Whether it is one of his big angry outbursts or just changing a shirt, somehow Brando no matter what makes it interesting through his incredibly distinct method of performing.

Stanley I suppose could have been portrayed as just a brute, but Brando never does this, not that Stanley is not a brute much of the time. Brando excels in every facet of his portrayal, including obviously Stanley's brutality and cruelty. Brando shows how it is simply Stanley nature to never act completely like a human being, but rather will always jump to his cruel anger, as his defense when ever needed.

Brando brilliantly portrays that anger in such intensity that it is simply outstanding. When Blanche and Stella cower over his trashing the dinner table, there is not a shred of disbelief of their reaction to him. Brando just as well with the cruelty shows Stanley's virility. Brando conveys this perfectly with just his magnetic presence in the film. The desire that Stella has for him despite his brutality is never questioned because it is just about impossible to stop watching Brando, he is that good.

Now is there more to Stanley than just the desirable brute, well yes, and no. Brando has it both ways which is incredible, becuase although he shows a great deal of his character, he leaves the right amount to interpretation, showing that there is always more to a man even a man like Stanley. He does probably show this best in the famous "Stella!" scene, where Brando shows the vulnerability, and pathetic nature of the character that is just as much of a part of his dangerous exterior.

Well I think I addressed the criticisms of the performance well enough, well the criticism anyway. I tried to state why this is so great, but I frankly don't think I really needed to even do that, so I guess I will just wrap it up. There really is no question for me this is a great performance. The greatest, well there are a lot of great performances around, and everyone has their personal favorite, but it is easy to see why many would see this performance that way. Brando most certianly does the absolute most with his character, and turns him into one of the most compelling performance ever to watch.


dinasztie said...

OMG, it's so ironic that you do his review.

But I'll tell why. Yesterday I watched All about my Mother on the stage and the first act ended with the ending of Streetcar and my favorite Hungarian actress played Huma Rojo/Blanche. Back in May we arranged to meet after the performance and she remember and came to me. And it was raining like in the story but I wasn't hit by a car. :) I only felt like being hit by a car because of the show and the fact that the actress kissed me on both cheeks. :D

Anyway Brando is great and so is your review! :)

Anonymous said...

Well, I certainly disagree, and I think you made it clear in your review that most of the things he does in his performance is showing the brutal side of Stanley without really creating layers to his character or adding that much depth to it, I guess the screenplay wasn't really meant to explore such things because it (rightfully) focuses on Blanche and her character development but I don't think we should forgive him for not trying to explore different emotions other than anger and being extremely over the top all of the time, I think that's my main problem with his performance, that he had like four moments where he wasn't screaming like crazy and in those moments he hinted at something lying underneath the surface but the rest was just annoying. I think he was overshadowed by the rest of the cast that richly deserved their Oscars, I don't think the Academy made a mistake by not rewarding him with one that year (he actually deserved it for On the Waterfront and he rightfully won) because it's alright that he wasn't allowed character development and that he didn't pursue it, but then his performance shouldn't be regarded as great just because it needs to be, it's simply an aspect that makes the film work because of the obvious difference to the Vivien Leigh character and how he helps driving her to madness but nothing else in my opinion. 3 Jacks for me. I also wish you had explained why you enjoyed his performance so much and not focused only on defending his performance from the criticisms. It's just my opinion, I'm not looking for any trouble, I still think you made good points in your review and your blog is of course my favorite and that's why I took my time with this comment.
Keep up the good work! ;)

Louis Morgan said...

Dinasztie: Thanks, and that's an interesting story.

Anonymous: I really must say I appreciate, your comment on this matter, and I most certianly understand your points. Perhaps I should have said this more clearly in the review, but what I find enjoyable, if a performance like this can be all that enjoyable that is, is the fact that I believe he does not get overshadowed, as well as stands out despite having the simplest character of the main four.

Tanvir Bashar said...

Louis which actors would u consider brwndos contemporaries

Louis Morgan said...

Montgomery Clift and James Dean.