Tag Archives: marlon brando

A Streetcar Named Desire

How can we spend a week in New Orleans without mentioning this film? Well here’s how: though it’s set in New Orleans, it sure wasn’t filmed there! Well, okay, maybe for a tiny moment’s worth of movie at the train station, but the rest was all Hollywood studios, as was common back then. And the eponymous Desire streetcar line had been dissolved into buses, but the city was able to lend the production a car for the opening sequence when Blanche first arrives in New Orleans.

a-streetcar-named-desire-stellaShe’d been a school teacher back home but moves to New Orleans to move in with her sister Stella and brother-in-law Stanley when creditors take over the family home. She’s horrified to find them living in a grungy little apartment, and even more horrified to find that Stanley is no gentleman. They butt heads right away, and not only is their relationship antagonistic, but she destabilizes an already volatile situation between husband and wife.

Vivien Leigh (Blanche) and Marlon Brando (Stanley) are held tight by the camera, close shots that increase the claustrophobia – so too do the walls that are closing in, literally – the set was built so the little apartment’s dimensions could become littler over time. Their closing in reflect’s Blanche’s deteriorating mental state.

Based on the Tennessee Williams play, A Streetcar Named Desire was edited dramatically to pass the censor’s scruples. There may not be much authentic New 81Qk8T3NWHL._SY450_.jpgOrleans in the picture, but it does¬†have a ground-breaking jazz sound track that gives us the city’s flavour and soul. Streetcar has become an important moment in American cinema, with great performances from iconic stars, and it’s given us more than one enduring catchphrase, although its most famous, simply “Stelllllla!” meets the bare minimum for a catchphrase – it’s really more about how Brando said it. Could say anything, really, and we’d pay attention.

Fun fact: Marlon Brando has appeared in our travel series before: he appeared in Last Tango in Paris, which we reviewed while in – that’s right – Paris.

Another fun fact: t-shirts didn’t come fitted like that back in the day. The wardrobe department shrunk it on purpose, and then stitched it up the back. ūüėČ

Movies Based on Classic Literature (No Poems, No Plays)


Thursday Movie Picks seemed tough this week at first. How many adaptations of really great books come close to doing their source material justice? I’m just proud of myself that I was able to come up with 3 without any Jane Austen.

grapes of wrath

The Grapes of Wrath (1940)– Probably my all-time favourite adaptation of a novel, director John Ford is just the right amount of faithful to Steinbeck’s classic. Screenwriter Nunnally Johnson was smart enough to know when best to let scenes play out nearly word for word as it did in the novel just as well as he knew when to let the movie when changes were needed. In¬†10 Movie Moments That Took My Breath Away, I listed Ma Joad’s burning of the old family photos as one of my all-time favourite scenes but now wish I had used the penny candy scene. There are so many perfect scenes in one of my favourite movies based on one of my favourite books.


Apocalypse Now (1979)– Francis Ford Coppola put his career and sanity on the linein his re-imagining of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness set during the Vietnam War. With all the script and cast changes that plagued the production, it’s a Hollywood miracle that Apocalypse Now is even watchable, let alone an American classic. Even the Marlon Brando part works for me.


Clueless (1995)– It’s easy to forget that Clueless is a modern adaptation of… damn. Okay, I guess I couldn’t completely escape Jane Austen. It’s supposed to be an adaptation of Emma, the only book of my three picks that I have not read, so I’m not sure how faithful it is. I’m guessing not very. But it is hilarious, quotable, and one of the few teen comedies I can think of that encourages us to learn a new word every day. It also features a young Paul Rudd (who has barely changed), an adorable Brittany Murphy, and a scene-stealing performance by Dan Hedaya.

Last Tango in Paris

If you notice a theme here over the next 10 days, you’re both perceptive and right. I’m off to Paris and to celebrate, I’ll be posting – guess what? – reviews of movies set in Paris! Mais oui!

I must be in a weird mood, and I’m trying not to read into the fact that the first Paris movie I lasttangothought was none other than the craziest of crazies: Last Tango in Paris. If you’ve seen it, you can’t forget it. Marlon Brando plays Paul,¬†a man mourning his wife’s suicide. He meets a young woman, Jeanne (Maria Schneider), when they both view the same apartment with intention to rent. They begin fucking. It was a “no strings attached” relationship before those words really existed. So stringless in fact that Paul insists they share absolutely no personal information, not even first names. The affair continues, graphically, for quite some time, until one day Jeanne shows up to find the apartment empty and Paul gone, without a word of goodbye.

But the story doesn’t end there! They meet again, on the street, and this time Paul, in his grief, spills his story, but Jeanne finds that this loss of anonymity¬†is not exactly to her liking, disillusioning in fact.

last-tango-in-paris-marlon-brando-maria-schneider-1972Director Bernardo Bertolucci¬†was inspired by his own sexual fantasies to make this film. He opens it with two paintings by Francis Bacon, which he visited frequently in real life at the Grand Palais Royal. The film’s palette draws heavily from the colours in¬†these paintings, which reminded¬†Bertolucci of Paris in the winter. He had lofty ambitions for the film, inspired by great art, but what he turned out was instead akin more to pornography?

Why? Because both stars felt “violated and raped” by the process. Maria Schneider, young and naive at the time of filming, felt manipulated into filming some of the more graphic scenes, including one in which¬†Jeanne is sodomized¬†(butter being the infamous lubricant of choice) but the¬†“real tears” are Maria’s, who felt¬†humiliated.¬† Her shock and revulsion¬†make it impossible¬†not to feel guilty by association.¬†Brando was so incensed that he refused to speak to Bertolucci for 15 years after filming wrapped.

Opening in 1972, of course there was great controversy. People in Paris faced weeks of lineups since foreigners from neighbouring countries with greater censorship laws flocked to see it where they could. In New Jersey, protestors called “Pervert!” to those who dared to see it, and the viewing prompted housewives to apparently “vomit in disgust.”

Nevertheless, the film was undeniably ground-breaking and free, and 40 years later, we’re still talking about it.