Sunday, May 08, 2011

THE FUGITIVE KIND (1960) - Sidney Lumet

Generally, I'm not a fan of Tennessee Williams's hothouse Southern melodramas-- Streetcar, The Glass Menagerie, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. They always come off just this side of daytime soaps, a little baroque and overheated for my tastes. But I can see why these plays are pure catnip for the best actors and directors.

Lumet does a respectable job breathing some air into this otherwise claustrophobic theatre piece about a drifter with a past (Brando) who comes to clerk at a small town drugstore run by the repressed middle-aged wife (Anna Magnani) of bedridden old racist. There are some nice widescreen compositions on display. Still, Lumet knows he has gold in his hands with Brando and holds on him in long close-ups when appropriate, as in the opening courtroom scene where he pleads the case of his prized in-hock guitar without ever showing the judge. Why bother cutting to the bailiff when you've got several simultaneous subplots going on behind Marlon's weary eyes?

I can't say I thoroughly enjoyed The Fugitive Kind. In fact, I was kind of bored for a good 40 minutes. But at least now I know for certain where Nic Cage got Sailor's snakeskin jacket for Wild at Heart. He pawned it off Valentine Xavier.

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