On Cate Blanchett

Dec 19, 2009People We Lerve
The Best Actress...period.

The Best Actress...period.

Not many New Yorkers, or humans, for that matter, will have had the pleasure, or rather, the great fortune of seeing Cate Blanchett in A Streetcar Names Desire. The Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) was lucky enough to feature the production, directed by Liv Ullman at the BAM Harvey Theater, the coolest venue. I have long been obsessed with great actresses. It started as a child when I happened to notice Bette Davis’ eyes peering from the television screen in Dark Victory. With the blink of those eyes, my life changed. Bette Davis was my first obsession, followed by food, Katherine Hepburn, a slew of actress from the Golden Age of Hollywood, drugs, and Elizabeth Taylor. No particular order. Being an obsessive personality, you get to appreciate things in the most profound way. Words cannot describe the feeling, the connection, but the love in your heart for whatever “that” is, warms your soul, so you do not need to explain anything to anyone. Anyway, this has little to do with Cate Blanchett and more to do with how obsessed I am with great actresses. And few and far between they are these days. Sure we have the comfortable old shoes of Meryl Streep and Jessica Lange…obsessed. But for our generation, Cate Blanchett is the real deal. When Cate lost out the Oscar for Elizabeth to Gwyneth Paltrow’s sweet, little performance in Shakespeare in Love, I knew then and know now that “Not Winning Is Everything”, a piece I wrote on it a while back on IMW.

This Blanche has a touch of Baby Jane, linking my tow girls, Cate Blanchett and Bette Davis.

This Blanche has a touch of Baby Jane, linking my two girls, Cate Blanchett and Bette Davis.

Cate’s Blanche DuBois is a dichotomy of personalities rolled up in one, brittle, defeated, self-tortured soul. She is a constant contradiction, which makes her descent into madness that much more compelling. You want her to snap out of it and go back to Belle Reeve as though this was all just a bad dream. People like Blanche Dubois need not know the harsh realities of life. They need to stay cocooned in their comforts and pass judgments on the Stanley Kowalskis of the world…not be brought down by them. But, as luck would have it, that is not how our little story ends. In the final scene where Cate is clad in nothing but a slip to be taken away to the state mental institution, you are left heartbroken and empty, as though it had just happened to you. Those are the acting chops that Cate Blanchett has. She goes so deep into Blanche’s psyche, that you have no choice but to go with her. The role of Blanche Dubois surely is one of the best written characters ever. That coupled with Cate Blanchett…is like nothing else on Earth.

7 Responses to “On Cate Blanchett”

  1. Michael Alan Miller says:

    I've never seen "A Streetcar Named Desire".

    Thank you for telling me the ending. ; )

  2. Cloey says:

    I completely agree with your thought just could not put them into words as you just did.

  3. Melissa says:

    I was one of the fortunate ones who saw Cate's performance and Streetcar and I'm rendered speechless! She had me at "They told me to take a street-car named Desire, and then transfer to one called Cemetaries & ride six blocks & get off at—Elysian Fields!" Wow. I have never witnessed such a powerfully nuanced study into a fractured mind & soul. Ms. Blanchett sold me on claiming the title as the best actress of all time and I don't offer that title freely. Meryl Streep is the only other actor who can compete with her (yes, I purposefully said it that way-Meryl just doesn't have the vocal command and graceful presence on stage as Cate does). The end left me shattered and I haven't stopped thinking about it. Wow. If only everyone in the world could see what we saw live in front of us! I am forever changed.

  4. Melissa says:

    Abe, have you seen the '51 version with Leigh & Brando? I can't watch that now with same amount of awe because this production was so much more visceral (although I believe Brando was a bit more substantial in the film than Joel's young, boyish take). Cate really sung that dialogue, it was as if you were witnessing a virtuoso glide through technical & musical passages with ease! What did you think of the rape scene? A lot of debate has been generated claiming it to not be a rape at all but consent. I didn't think so at all but I found it curious that some critics were taking issue with that. Oh, and I should tell you that I attended the same performance as Meryl Streep and heard her gushing about Cate's performance afterwards! I thought that was too cool!

    • Abe Gurko says:

      I love the Leigh/Brando film and agree, that what Marlon did was not surpass-able. (I also didn't like the casting of Mitch.) Vivien was amazing…galore…as she struggled with mental illness in her personal life) but somehow, Blanchett did something more complex…. I will always love Vivien Leigh and her performance. Kudos to Liv Ullman for bringing a modernity to the role of Blanche and surpassing Elia Kazan's direction.

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