Monday, November 3, 2008

Tennesse Williams Season at the BFI

It has been 25 years since the death of Tennessee Williams, and interest in this great American playwright’s work remains intense. However the recent publication of some of his lesser known early and late one-act plays, in which gay characters fully emerge, has given us a chance to appreciate and understand Tennessee’s own story more fully. To tie in with the celebration of this great playwright at the Glasgay Festival, throughout November film audiences at the British Film Institute (BFI) Southbank can enjoy a flashback to the glory days of his greatest screen adaptations.

The season features some of Williams’ most celebrated work for the big screen, kicking off with The Glass Menagerie (1950) on 1 November followed by such classics as, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958), Suddenly Last Summer (1959) and The Night of the Iguana (1964). As a centrepiece we’re presenting an extended run of A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), probably Williams’ most famous work in which Marlon Brando and Vivien Leigh give outstanding performances in this electrifying film about broken family relations. The season also includes his lesser-known adaptations for the cinema, such as the rarely screened Boom (1968) which is regularly championed by the film-maker John Waters; and Noir et blanc (1986 - picture), based on Williams’ short story Desire and the Back Masseur.

This series of films pays tribute to some of the great actors of the 20th century, with roles for stars such as Elizabeth Taylor, Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Natalie Wood and Montgomery Clift. Williams’ characters encompass the full range of humanity: they can be starry-eyed, needy, credulous, self-destructive, warm, wry, flirtatious and just a little bitchy. Above all, Williams’ natural sympathy is with utterly open and unapologetic outsiders and misfits. What is fascinating from a contemporary re-viewing of his drama is how autobiographical his stories are: these are works full of his love and lovers, battles for acceptance, struggles with drugs and alcohol and are populated with dysfunctional families.

For details of the screenings from the BFI's website, please click here.

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