Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Fugitive Kind ★★★★

    Valentine "Snakeskin" Xavier drifts into town with nothing but a forgettable past and his lifelong companion--his guitar. Xavier is the main character in the 1959 film entitled "The Fugitive Kind." This picture is based on the play, written by Tennessee Williams, known as Orpheus Descending. Sidney Lumet directs this black and white drama, which features dark undertones and brilliant character studies. 

    "The Fugitive Kind" begins in New Orleans where we first get a glimpse of Valentine Xavier; he is pleading his case in front of a judge. Once the judge begrudgingly gives him leave, he gets his guitar out of "hock" and makes his way out of town to turn over a new leaf. After his car breaks down, he finds himself in the town of Two Rivers County, Mississippi. It is a small, dark and dreary river town where all the inhabitants know each other, and they surely don't take kindly to strangers. He finds work at the local mercantile store and begins a relationship with the owner's wife---all while trying to fend off the past.

    The performances in "The Fugitive Kind" are nothing short of sensational; Marlon Brando is brilliant as Valentine Xavier. (One of his lesser known roles.) Brando performs this role with natural ease, especially considering the complexity of his character. He is a thirty-year-old, intelligent, and quiet individual, who displays provoking thoughts and sensibility. Xavier is wise and does not fall victim to temptation. There are many incredible scenes where Brando depicts those particular traits of his character with supreme professionalism.

    Brando is arguably the greatest actor of his time, and here is one of the roles that he may not have been highly praised for; however, he unquestionably shows a variety of range in his approach to this performance. 

     In order for a film like this to work, then you have to cast an actress with enough range and power to equal that of Brando; Anna Magnani does just that. Magnani is impeccable in her role as Lady Torrance, the wife of Jabe Torrance, who owns and operates the local mercantile store. When we first meet Lady, she is a sad and broken woman who claims that "death can't come soon enough." She has lived a rough and painful life with many heartbreaking memories. From the moment she meets Xavier, however, she knows that he can pick up the pieces and make her feel alive once more.

     Brando and Magnani have incredible chemistry together on the screen. Every scene between these two characters is genuine and beautiful. Joanne Woodward rounds out the cast as Carol Cutrere--the black sheep of a wealthy local family who pays her to stay out of town. Of course, she doesn't, as she loves attention and must be "seen, heard, and felt." Naturally, she falls for Xavier, for she remembers him from a New Year's Eve party in New Orleans. Woodard is terrific in this role, and she also displays wonderful chemistry with Brando. 

     Lumet is methodical with his directional approach to this film. Every scene takes its time and doesn't rush to prove its point. Lumet works well with his actors here and makes sure to get the best performances from them. This is the first major film of many that Lumet will direct and ultimately prove his place as one of the best of his time. The environment of this film is incredibly dark and dim; credit must be given to the cinematographer and other production crew who successfully contain this film to its dark interiors.

    Additionally, the musical scores are placed brilliantly and never drown out any conversation. They are very subtle and even downright eerie, especially in an early scene in which Brando converses with the local Sheriff's wife, who gives him a dry place to rest on the night he comes into town.

     "The Fugitive Kind" is a dark and delicate film that should be watched on a quiet and lonely night. It will lend its emotions to the viewer and will grip you with its beautiful dialogue and acting. True character studies are a miraculous thing to observe. It is truly a shame that they do not exist in film any longer. We have become spoiled with computer graphics and special effects, and we have lost the sensuality that was once captured in film. This is a picture that will stand the test of time simply because it is far ahead of its time. 

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