Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Fugitive Kind


The Fugitive Kind; Drama, USA, 1959; D: Sidney Lumet, S: Marlon Brando, Anna Magnani, Joanne Woodward, Maureen Stapleton, Victor Jory, R.G. Armstrong, Virgilia Chew

On court, the deviant 30-year old Val is accused of working as an "entertainer" in a night club. He gets released and leaves for a small town near the Mississippi. There he finds the nymphomaniac Carol who likes his snakeskin jacket. The town hates Carol and he is the only one who defends her, even though he doesn't want to have anything with her. Val finds a job as a shoe salesman at the frustrated Lady Torrance whose sick husband Jabe terrorizes her. Val starts a relationship with her. The situation becomes complicated when Jabe admits he killed her father because he served Black people. When she announces she is expecting a baby with Val, Jabe shoots her and puts the house on fire. Everyone thinks Val is the perpetrator, who dies in fire.

"The Fugitive Kind" is a hypnotically fascinating adaptation of Tennessee Williams' play "Orpheus Descending" that's, even in this milder version, still shocking and daring, but precisely because of that undated even today. It handles themes of loneliness, isolation and people trying to find their place in this world, tackling even some subplots about human desire: for instance, even though it is never stated out loud, it's obvious that everyone hates Carol (Woodward) because she is a nymphomaniac - in the sequence at the graveyard, she suddenly starts touching Val's pants, but when he stops her, she starts talking: "Please, please..." Nothing less boring is another great character, the one of Lady Torrance who can't have kids and hates her husband, but finds a soul mate in Val. Sidney Lumet directs the film in a very fine and measured manner, crafting some poetic scenes and contemplative messages about life and provincial views, while Marlon Brando is, predictably, excellent in the leading role. Rarely has a film been so touching thanks to the provocative tone as this one.

Grade:+++

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