James Dean is at the centre of virtually every frame in Elia Kazan’s adptation of John Steinbeck’s Cain and Abel tale. His electrifying impact can still be felt 50 years later – in a beautiful new CinemaScope print on the big screen.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2005
In his first starring role James Dean is at the centre of virtually every frame. He is so feverishly alive that the electrifying impact of his arrival can still be felt 50 years later – especially by those fortunate enough to see the film in a beautiful new print on the big screen. It’s one of the most expressively shot and beautifully composed Hollywood films ever made in CinemaScope. Dean’s Cal Trask in Elia Kazan’s episodic adaptation of John Steinbeck’s novel was passionate, raw, vulnerable, a picture of young manhood never seen before in American movies, let alone so worshipped by the camera. In Steinbeck’s family drama, set in the Californian Central Valley just before World War I, Cal, convinced that he’s fundamentally bad, tries to win the love and approval that his bible-thumping father grants readily to his ‘good’ brother, Aron. Julie Harris matches him beautifully as Aron’s girlfriend, fighting her attraction to the sexy, hurting Cal. The unabashed neurotic power of East of Eden is startling, reaching out still to the unloved bad kid in all of us. — BG