Sunday, 20 February 2011

Scene On A Sunday: On the Waterfront

When one remembers On the Waterfront, in relation to “great” scenes, we’re immediate moved to reminisce on that backseat conversation between Brando and Steiger which is excellent. But, I always feel badly that the male ensemble always seems to render Eva Marie Saint’s Edie forgettable. The supporting actress category is no stranger to debut, and even though Eva Marie Saint’s inexperience is palpable at times I love her performance here – this scene (well, it’s sort of a two-in-one) is a fine example.

I love that shot that opens it. It’s all part of the climax of On the Waterfront. Terry’s being pulled from both sides; and he’s unsure whether to remain with his gangster past or follows his inclinations towards Edie. So, there is he banging at her door...

Eva Marie Saint has such a natural fragility to her, the fact that she’s in white makes her look so much more ethereal.
Terry (OS): “Edie! Edie!”
Edie: “Stay away from me!”

Terry (OS): “Edie!”

Isn’t it nice that directors actually made use of wide shots back in the day? It seems like almost every scene nowadays – confrontational or otherwise, is done using close-ups.

Terry (OS): “Come on, Edie! Open the door!”
Edie: “Stop it!”

And, he barges in...

 Edie: “I want you to stay away from me.”
Maybe it’s that line, but I always think of this part of the scene in conjunction with that other movie with a similar lover’s quarrel then reunion (this time Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer).

Terry: “I know what you want me to do, but I ain’t gonna do it, so forget it!”
Brando covers a lot of ground in this movie, and it’s my performance of his – but gun to my head, I’d probably choose this scene as an encapsulation of why like him here.

 Edie: “I don’t want you to do anything.”

And, you wouldn’t think it’d be a fair argument – but Eva is so fearless even in her delicateness...

Edie: “You let your conscience tell you what to do!”

Don’t you just love how that significant line is juxtaposed with the image of the cross which seems to sort of pop out from nowhere? Not overt, but still striking.

Terry: “Shut up about that conscience! That’s all I been hearing!”

(Doesn’t he look the slightest bit like a young Justin Chambers there?)

Edie: “I never mentioned the word before. You stay away from me!”

Terry: “Edie, you love me! I want you-”

I just love how this scene is shot, though; I’m a big Kazan fan so that’s not surprise.
Edie: “I didn’t say I didn’t love you, I said stay away from me!”

 Terry: “I want you to say it!”

Edie: “Stay away from me!”

Isn’t that some wise photography/directing choices? That cross is becoming even more palpable, almost like it’s replacing Edie’s head. The goodness of the wide-shot.

 Edie: “Terry...”

One of the great things about On the Waterfront (and there are so many) is how organic everything flows. Notice how Edie calls his name there, only for us to immediately move to someone else calling for him – but in a completely manner, and for a different reason.

Voice (OS): “Hey, Terry!”

Love that expression on her face, above.

Voice (OS): “Hey, Terry! Your brother’s down here and he wants to see ya.”

Terry: “Charley...?”

With Edie innocent is not implicit of naiveté, she knows all too well that this isn’t ending well. You don’t immediately think of Eva Marie Saint as an actor who works through her expressions, but when she’s on point she’s brilliant.

 Voice (OS): “Hey, Terry! Your brother’s down here!”

And, another great shot above. I love that you can only barely make out Terry’s silhouette, and Edie’s stance there is so telling.

Voice (OS): “Come on down, he wants to see ya.”

 So much subtleties there, Terry seems like he’s locked in a jail, and clothes on a line have never seemed so foreboding.

Voice(OS): “Come on down.”

 Edie: “What is it?”
Terry: “Charley. I think he’s in trouble.”

 Edie: “Be careful!”

The use of the wide-shot is almost foreshadowing in its use, and Kazan is always so smart about these things. This entire scene is marked by the tension, and it’s as if even when they’re alone Edie and Terry are still in danger – as if someone’s watching.

Poor Edie.

 Terry: “Charley.”

Edie: “Terry?”

Voice (OS): “Your brother’s down here!”

Woman: “You hear what I hear?”
(I always wonder how much this woman was paid, I think it's Anne Hegeira. My mind always goes to the weirdest things.
Ah, the first of a number of shots akin...

Edie: “Terry!”
And, down Edie comes...

Edie: “Terry!”

Woman: “That’s the same way they called Andy the night I lost him.”
(Talk about unnecessary warnings, eh?)

 Woman (OS): “Edie, be careful!”

 In another situation that light on Edie would be almost heavenly.

Well, of course you can’t actually hear it – but that’s the sound of a vehicle that makes Terry turn around which segues into Edie...

Edie: “Terry!”

Terry: “Edie, watch out for that truck!”

I love that the camera is stationary as we watch them move around, almost insignificant the way that Kazan keeps his distance from them, the fact that they’re running towards us – almost down-screen makes the situation even more tense. Down is so indicative of negativity.

My favourite shot of the scene above: FYI.

 The absence of dialogue as Terry looks out only makes the impending discovery more striking.

 As the vehicle moves we see...

 ...a figure hanging on the wall...

 And, now Brando looks like Beatty with that expression on his face.

 That expression on his face: you know that he knows now.
Now, that’s a good use of close-up – unsettling, there’s something insulting about hanging a corpse like that.
 I’m so impressed with Eva here because it’s easy for her presence to seem superfluous, but Kazan isn’t interested in focusing on Terry. She’s there for a reason, and Saint has the difficult task of showing emotion to the death of a man she knows little of. She doesn’t mitigate her fear, her confusion or even the numbness – she’s been through this before.
It’s an emotional scene, but Kazan never exploits it
That expression there is just perfect in its nakedness. One can only imagine what’s running through Edie’s head.
Edie: “Terry...”
Terry: “They got Charley.”
Edie: “Terry, I’m frightened. Let’s get out of here, please.”
Terry: “First Joey, and then Duggan and now Charley and then...
Edie: Please Terry, someplace where we can live in peace.”
Come on, who’s not flashing to “Somewhere” at that line?

Terry: “I’m gonna take it out on their skulls.”
Terry: “Charley...”
Terry: “I’m gonna take it out on their skulls!”
Edie: “Please, Terry. They’ll kill you too!”
 Terry: “Go, get the father. Tell him to take care of Charley...”

Terry: “...then come on back here and stay with him till he gets here.”
Edie: “Terry, please don’t do anything. Please!”

Terry: “For God’s sake! Don’t leave him alone here long”
This is such a profound line. I don’t know what it is about Brando, he’s so deliberate but I never find him overly precise like other actors he’s often compared to (like DeNiro, for example).

Edie: “Please, Terry.”
Terry: “Do what I tell you.”
Edie: “Terry.”
And there he goes...but as I said, Kazan isn’t interested in Terry arc. Notice how the scene continues switching to Edie...where it began.

There’s that light again, and it feels obtrusive somewhat. You’d expect light to be welcome at a time like this, but here it just feels garish.
And we end on Edie’s face...a wealth of emotions.
God, I love Kazan (and Brando and On the Waterfront and Eva Marie Saint too). Sigh.
Too much priaisng of the wideshotS? This isn’t exactly the optimum scene for a Sunday rest, but what do you think of it (or Eva or Brando or On the Waterfront)?


MovieNut14 said...

God, I love Brando's performance in On the Waterfront. Probably one of the few times Oscar gets it right.

In regards to the taxi cab scene, the one part that always leaves me speechless is not Terry's "contender" speech; it's his reaction to Charley, his own brother, pulling a gun on him.

Before this turns into a post, I'll add one more thing. Dated or not, this movie is brilliant.

Yojimbo_5 said...

How can you NOT think of "Somewhere" when Leonard Bernstein's tribal kettle drums, mournful brass, and keening strings are shared by both OTW and WSS?

This is a brilliant scene (and brilliant of you to include both parts of it—this cements the relationship between Edie and Terry, and transitions him from Hamlet-like conscience-fighting to not just deciding but taking action.

And I've always loved the scene of them hand-in-hand running down the alleyway and their faces shining in the dark.

Bravo, Andrew. Perfect choice. Perfectly done.

Jose said...

Awesome analysis too. I love how intense this scene is and OMG the music!

Anonymous said...

I love when you make these types of posts. So informed, so worthwhile.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

anna come on, their decisions aren't always abominable. but, yes, this film is golden - and so are the ALL the performances (i still can't choose between malden, cobb and steiger)

yojimbo saint isn't the strongest actress brando's been opposite, but i love their chemistry. it's so authentic.

jose flawless indeed, i remember you're a kazan enthusiast too (a rarity).

james THANK YOU!

Beth said...

Best movie quote ever: I could have been a contender