‘STELLA!!!! STELLA!!!’ You’ll find it hard not to pound your chest and scream after seeing Kazan’s stirring, if over-polite 1951 reading of Tennessee Williams’s claustrophobic study of passion, refinement and power games set in the seamy domiciles of New Orleans’s French Quarter. Scenes fired by brute energy abound, but they are all offset by Kazan’s decision to shine a spotlight on the small moments we all know, and relegate Williams’s ornate, hot-blooded text to staid expositional dialogue.
There’s also an irksome disparity between Marlon Brando’s compelling miscellany of tics and mumbles (a sublime, hyper-realist performance) as wife-beating schlub Stanley Kowalski and Vivien Leigh’s theatrical stab at fallen Southern belle Blanche DuBois. Kazan’s direction simmers when it needs to boil, placing all its chips on the battered decor and ethereal lighting, leaving you to wonder what fun Hitchcock or Preminger would have with the sexually pulsating, pressure-cooker backdrop gifted to them in the source material.