On the Waterfront

  • USA Bottom of the River (working title) (more)


Ex-boxer Terry Malloy (Marlon Brando) becomes involved in corrupt dockside politics through his lawyer brother Charley (Rod Steiger), who works for gangster union boss Johnny Friendly (Lee J. Cobb). When Terry witnesses the murder of a union worker by Johnny's thugs, his conscience begins to trouble him. He meets the murder victim's sister (Eva Marie Saint) and learns from Father Barry (Karl Malden) that the dead man was about to expose Johnny's illegal activities. Father Barry then tries to convince Terry to provide the evidence required to put Johnny behind bars. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)


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English Kazan’s variation on a neorealist theme, straddling the line between realism and idealism (the unabashedly melodramatic climax) is not an iconic 1950s film only because of its socio-critical story (for whose appreciation it is good to know the infamous role played by Schulberg and Kazan in McCarthy’s anti-communist campaign). On the Waterfront most intensely recalls the time of its making through the acting performances. You don’t have to leaf through thick books on the history of cinema in order to understand the term “method acting”. It suffices to watch Brando at work in one textbook scene after another. Brando is focused, but at ease, with bullish tenacity and feminine sensitivity at the same time. That sensitivity makes Terry a remarkably ambivalent character. On the one hand, it weakens him; on the other hand, it makes him a moral authority in the eyes of men who are outwardly stronger but inwardly weaker. These two components of the protagonist’s personality never cancel each other out. Thanks to Brando, they are rather in perfect harmony. Such identification of an actor with his character has rarely been seen since. 85% ()


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English On the Waterfront is, of course, an excellent film with memorable performances, cinematography and sound design, but perhaps I was expecting more from a movie awarded with 8 Oscars than just another variation on the theme of violent gangster domination and social inequality. The simple story is at times over-dramatized and idealised, which adds to its impact and moral depth, but the "harsh reality" of the trodden working class did not hit me as hard as probably intended. What really makes the film worth watching, though, and why it gained such fame in the first place, is Marlon Brando's brilliant animalistic performance (something only Tom Hardy can do these days), and also the captivatingly stylized form coupled with a properly depressing setting that oozes human filth. I'm definitely curious about Kazan's other movies.... 80% ()



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English I can't help but watch Marlon Brando play, it's simply an incredible experience. Every time. You always have a different character in front of you. You know he's one actor, but it's like he's not. This is truly captivating acting that takes your breath away. Not to mention that this is a film with other excellent actors, including the beautiful Eva Marie Saint. Plus, it's also great in terms of directing. Simply put, it deserves nothing less than full marks. ()

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