Saturday, June 9, 2007

On the Waterfront (1954)

Directed by Elia Kazan. Starring Marlon Brando, Eva Marie Saint, Rod Steiger, Lee J. Cobb, and Karl Malden.

This film is a sticking point among many who believe Kazan was a rat who basically used this as a venue to excuse his actions, but in the greater scheme I think it's an important capsule of a prickly and difficult time. Brando's Terry Malloy struggles with the idea of standing up to the criminal element who has taken over the Hoboken docks, including his own brother Charley (Steiger). The film is informed by a more hard-hitting style than most Hollywood films of the time, and Kazan takes much of his cue from the Method acting of his stars- this, along with Kazan's earlier A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE, is one of the great demonstrations for a new kind of cinematic acting. In my mind, it's Brando's best "early" performance, in service of a film which, though ideologically tricky, can't be ignored.

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