Tuesday, June 26, 2007

On the Waterfront (1954)

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Most people forty or younger will only recognize one thing about On the Waterfront; the line "I coulda been a contender." Movie fans will have seen the film listed on all-time best lists and some know Marlon Brando is considered the Babe Ruth of acting but don't know why. It’s hard to imagine that any film created over a half-century ago can still have impact on young viewers. One watch of On the Waterfront, though, is like a revelation of why acting, directing, and scoring of films is the way it is today. One can see that each shot, line, acting choice, etc., inspired a film that followed it. The film is more than a history lesson, but the coming-of-age, fight against corruption story of Terry Malloy (Brando) and his decision to testify against the mob which controls the waterfront union. Watch any movie from years before On the Waterfront and it becomes clear that the subtle choices Brando brought to the screen had never been conceived by previous generations of actors. Every scene with Brando is magical, but this isn't a classic only because of him. Karl Malden plays Father Barry, the waterfront's local priest, and is almost as crucial to the film as Malloy. Malden plays a priest in a way that is rarely, if ever, seen on film. Father Barry is a regular person, drinking and fighting with society, but has the courage to stand up against injustice, speak out against corruption and initiate movement toward change. Elia Kazan, also known for A Streetcar Named Desire, created an efficient masterpiece with no fluff; every scene is necessary and overflowing with emotion, beauty, and relevance. It seems that many "classics" are overrated films that are more nostalgic than artistic, but On the Waterfront is everything it is hyped to be and more. The movie transcends Hollywood, popcorn, and DVDs, and saturates the viewer with a complete, powerful film experience.

Good For: anyone who watches movies, a date, to watch with mom or dad or even grandpa/grandma, film buffs, future actors

Bad For: people who can't stand black and white films

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The Film Maker: * * * * *

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