Are Vanessa Redgrave and Meryl Streep Actually One and the Same?
Vanessa, an Italian in lower Slobovia, I mean Lousiana or Mississippi.....what a background to play against. This Tennessee Williams classic has great allusions to 'crossing the river', so read up on your Greek mythology before watching this movie. All of us with Southern accents cringe at the dead-on representation of the hypocritical upright citizenry of this pitiful town. The dying husband/Klansman who had burned out his wife's father many years before (and burned her father, as well, we find out) comes to life in the finale as he applies the torch to the hero. The hero, a young man in a snakeskin jacket, gives new life to three downtrodden women. One of them, driven crazy by the town's abuse, shows acute intelligence warped beyond redemption by her suffering.
This one is not a light excursion into escapist fare. The fact that most of Tennessee Williams' plays pull back the mask from Society's hypocritical face is certainly emphasized here. We make our compromises with what we learned in Sunday School and one day, we join a gang that strips and sets fire to those who are 'different' among us. When they in turn go berserk, as in Columbine, we blame the movies !!(?). Who is truly insane here?
Right on characterizations by the four townswomen, each one familiar to us. The artist who escapes into religious visions after facing lynchings and chain gangs, supervised by the brutality of her sheriff husband, fills the screen with her plain soul-beauty. We were taught of 'Southern Schizophrenia' in Sociology: the cleaving in two of our brains in order to co-exist with going to church three times a week and twice on Sunday.... and our savage mistreatment of the 'different', usually black, Jewish or Catholic. That was then and now is now......are we any different?
See it. Find yourself in it. Not an easy trip, because the 'Orpheus descending' is you and me.
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