Saturday, February 13, 2010
East of Eden (1955)
East of Eden is a film directed by Elia Kazan in 1955, loosely based on the novel of the same name which was released in 1952 by John Steinbeck. It stars James Dean in his first significant role, and he really is the star of the show. Unfortunately he died in September of 1955.
Apperantly, Dean himself was a dislikable character. Marlon Brando was considered before Dean, when screenwriter Paul Osborn found James acting on Broadway. Kazan was unimpressed with Dean as an actor, but later admitted that he thought Dean was perfect for the role, that Cal, the character in the movie, and James Dean shared similar emotional traits. Now that's prudence for you. The kid's an asshole, he's hard to get along with, his acting methods are amateurish. However he's great for the part, he IS the part, he IS that character, he GETS the part.
The plot: Two sons, Cal (James Dean) and Aron (Richard Davalos) live with there father Adam Trask (Raymond Massey) on a ranch near the central California coastal town of Selinas. Their mother apparently had left when they were born. Cal finds out thay his mother is alive and runs a successful brothel close by. He goes to see her and discovers that he shares most of his traits with her. His mother asks about his brother Aron, Cal tells her "Oh he's good, not like you", she howls with laughter. Cal is a wild person. He's constantly likened to an animal. He's an outsider. He longs for his father's affections but never gets any. Aron on the other hand is the insider, he's loved and prased by his father but he loves his brother Cal, whereas Cal only holds resentment for Aron. Adam Trask looses most of his fortune in a failed refrigeration business. His aim was not to make a profit, but find a way to preserve vegetables and do some good for the human race. What a good guy. Cal tries to start a business which would profit from World War 1 breaking out. His plan was to give his father back the money that the ice business lost. His father rejects the money as it's war profiteering. As a result, Cal looses the plot and all hell breaks loose within the family.
I liked this movie. It's got many lessons and what not, for young troubled men trying to find thier place in the world. Ya it's soppy stuff, but I'll go deeper into it. All Cal is lookin for is love. He doesn't feel loved and that turns him into a cruel and nasty person. His father is this highly moralled man with principles, but he sticks to his "right principles" so much so that he himself is emotionless. The father does what is right by the book, but doesn't follow his own conscience in a way which leaves Cal frustrated. Cal is the most honest minded person in the movie. He doesn't believe what he hears from his father about his mother dying and he goes out to find her. Cal is just trying to get a sense of himself, of where he comes from, and why he is the way he is.
I'll say that this is a good movie, but not great. The ending could have been alot better for the way it was set-up. It seemed a bit twisted to me in the end. Like things shouldn't have turnes out the way they did. I'm not asking for a happy ending, but I think they could've done better. That might have gone against the book though which I haven't read so can't comment on. It was a great debut however by James Dean.