Monday, July 20, 2009

A Streetcar Named Desire (1947)--Part 1 You knew these pictures would be coming (assuming they make it to post).

I like this. It speaks to me. The mental and emotional world in this play is recognizable to me, which is not always, indeed is actually rather rarely, the case in most of the literature I read. The passions of course are much subdued in me compared to what they are in this writing, but the sentiments which support are, however faintly, still there.

The somewhat heavy-handed nature of the imagery starts right in with the opening stage directions: "quaintly ornamented gables", "faint redolences of bananas and coffee", "a tinny piano being played with the infatuated fluency of brown fingers". However the effect is felt.

I wondered while reading this if acting with so much short dialogue (The Method!) were not actually more difficult in many ways than reciting the longer speeches, often in verse, of the traditional theater. Not many people seem to think so, or that the modern theater is ultimately comparable in quality or in its demands on actors as the classical is. Still, the thought occurred to me, and in reading, not by watching a labored performance by inferior actors and comparing to that of polished ones, so there might be something in it. It might explain one of the reasons why the modern theater seems in some way inadequate compared to the classical if nothing else.

As you will know if you have seen this play, or the film of it, it doesn't take long to get to the first whiskey time, about three pages. The rest of the sentient part of this country has long moved on, I know, but I do like these old midcentury books where people eat and drink the same stuff I do, or would like to if I were more organized in my dissolution; of course they do it far more instinctively. For my own part I have not discovered/adapted any new drinks into my repertoire in many years. More evidence of the effects of social isolation. I hope people like me hold on in the future to the opportunity to go to real residential colleges rather than the moneysaving trade school/community college/online courses plan of life many people are promoting now as preferable alternatives for the middling classes. I was probably predestined to live a life of stale and minimally developed habits anyway, but these doubtless would have been far worse had I been compelled to spend my twenties living at home.

(Stage Directions) "Since earliest manhood the center of his life has been pleasure with women, the giving and taking of it, not with weak indulgence, dependently, but with the power and pride of a richly feathered male bird among hens." And what has been the center of your life again?

(S.D.) "He crosses through drapes with a smoldering look". Things I think are funny I mark with a drawing of a horn.

I thought old Vivien Leigh was quite good as Blanche (apparently there is some debate about this). I guess I kind of like old Vivien Leigh. She reminds me as one of those girls from school who wasn't always in the forefront of your consciousness that when you look in the yearbook decades later you think "Why didn't I like her?"

STANLEY: I never met a woman that didn't know if she was good-looking or not without being told, and some of them give themselves credit for more than they've got. I once went out with a doll who said to me, "I am the glamorous type, I am the glamorous type!" I said, "So what?"

That's pretty good.

I guess I had better try to do some kind of analysis here. So what are we supposed to make of Stanley? What does he represent? We know that Blanche's poetic soul is crushed by his brute realism. Indeed, Blanche is already more or less dead, her identifying possessions--the house, her letters, her nerves--either have or are literally about to crumble to bits, relics of a life long lost. Stella on the other hand, the star, she has vitality, some life-force about her ("there are things that happen between a man and a woman in the dark--that sort of make everything else seem--unimportant"). I suspect we are supposed to be dealing with the circumstance that romanticism has very little to do with actual existence, and indulging in it properly shouldn't even interest us that much.

Blanche does an astrology assessment at one point in she reveals herself as having the same birthday as my son Charles (they are Virgos). Stanley is a Capricorn, also an earth sign. Everyone in my family also, rather oddly, is an earth sign. My wife and I are both Capricorns, sons #1 and 4 are Tauruses, #s 2 & 3 are Virgos. I don't believe in astrology of course, but I like to keep abreast of what it is supposed to say about me and the people who live with me in case some stubborn and otherwise inexplicable shortcoming or barrier to successful advancement or relations should arise.

BLANCHE: I never was hard or self-sufficient enough...When people are soft...they've got to put a--paper lantern over the light...You've got to be soft and attractive...I'm fading now." Blanche and I sort of have a lot in common psychologically, though I am much more tamed in my social behaviors, which makes me appear even less serious of a person than she is.

I should try again to inject some analysis here. Is this play really that great? While we're at it, I may as well ask if the film is really that great too, since the two are unusually intimately connected, not only in proximity of time but in that the stage director and at least one of the actors, and I believe several others, from the original stage production worked on the film as well. While it isn't quite Faulkner, it does have a lot going for it. Blanche and Stanley are two of the more iconic and recognizable characters in American theater, and quite a lot of the dialogue has seeped into the common consciousness to some degree. The story arc featuring the gradual revelation of a "dark secret" seems to me a typical American type. I guess such stories are common in every culture, but somehow the secret is always more horrible in its effects among us because we are so extremely dependent on our cultivated facades to get through life even more than other peoples.

It is a matter of no importance, but I have had almost no time this month to sit and write a blog post or anything else. These posts are nothing in themselves, but every one of them means something to me at the time, that I was able to sit down for a few minutes and make something resembling an object out of some portion of my thoughts. The next two days I won't be near a computer at all. I can't finish a thought now, have to go...

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