Sunday, 25 September 2011

Buy Your Life Back

Cat on  Hot Tin Roof is streaming on Netflix.  If you haven't canceled your account yet, you should run to see it.  I don't know how I missed seeing this movie - I love Tennessee Williams.  I've seen the play, but this movie is so fully realized as both a piece of writing and as a film, it's astonishing.

The opening scene with Brick and Maggie (the scary gorgeous pairing of Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor) is textbook theatre, yet so riveting that after watching for a bit, I was tempted to se how long it had been running.  When I checked it was 12 minutes in -- 12 minutes in to 2 actors in one room talking to each other, and still I was fascinated.

The scenes are long, but the transitions are smooth, and the acting is stunning.  There's no question that Burl Ives has lived a life as Big Daddy beyond the confines of the film's script, or that Judith Anderson's Ida's been keeping quiet for 40 years and is going to have her say.

Paul Newman holds a close-up with a death grip, unafraid of the camera climbing into the soul of his character.  Elizabeth Taylor manages to avoid the shrewishness inherent in Maggie completely by making every deep emotional choice about subtext from a place of absolute love and longing.  Their last scene is a lesson in eyelines and why some actors are stars - the look the give each other across the room - skillfully played in separate long shots first by director Richard Brooks - connects them inextricably in the edit, in the frame and in the scene.

The script is full of memorable lines, but here's one from Brick and Big Daddy's scene together:
Big Daddy:
There's one thing you can't buy at any European fire sale, or any other market on Earth. That's your life. You can't buy back your life when it's finished.
Maybe what we've so clearly lost since this script was written is the inextricable intimacy of certain relationships.  All the drama here comes out of this, but in our fluid society - you could say we've got too much chi - way too much chi flowing too fast - it's so easy to cast off people and place that sometimes we miss getting called out on the big questions.

Still, I think you can buy your life back, you just have to do it now - make sure you're actually living your life while it's happening.


Ella Scott said...

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E. Amato said...

Thanks so much, Ella!