Kazan on Directing by Elia Kazan

By Elia Kazan

Elia Kazan used to be the 20th century’s so much celebrated director of either degree and display, and this enormous, revelatory booklet exhibits us the grasp at work.  Kazan’s record of Broadway and Hollywood successes—A Streetcar Named hope, demise of a salesperson, at the Waterfront, to call a few—is a testomony to his profound influence at the artwork of directing. This awesome booklet, drawn from his notebooks, letters, interviews, and autobiography, finds Kazan’s approach: how he exposed the “spine,” or center, of every script; how he analyzed every piece when it comes to his personal adventure; and the way he decided the specifics of his construction.  And within the ultimate part, “The Pleasures of Directing”—written in the course of Kazan’s ultimate years—he turns into a smart outdated seasoned providing suggestion and perception for budding artists, writers, actors, and directors.

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The play was not deep; it did its work—just as the fighters do in a ring: they get down to the essential reason for being in the ring. The “achievement” part in the spine has to do with the ego. The play deals with hurt egos and how the hurt has to be healed. There is no implied value judgment in the word “achievement,” although there is in Odets's play. The production did not stop to moralize. It simply told its story, which was like an allegory, and any judgment came from thinking about the whole story.

Paradoxically, though all of his work was motivated by his interest in social issues and though he thought of himself as a liberal, Kazan was at heart apolitical, an artistic loner determined to actualize his artistic vision. In his autobiography he ruefully reconsidered his HUAC testimony: “How is the world better for what I did? It had just been a game of power and influence, and I'd been taken in and twisted from my true self. I'd fallen for something I shouldn't have, no matter how hard the pressure and no matter how sound my reasons.

Your brain can lie to you. Your heart not. If you leave it alone and just be kind of simple about it, it will tell you the Basic Theatre fact. Second essential criticism; and that is the old, old one: NO STORY. A set of developing human relationships is delineated. Or rather, we are shown various stages of a series of character relationships, but that is still not really story. Story has to do with cause and effect, a chain of cause and effects linked together in such away that the end is inevitable in the beginning.

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