His Dark Materials
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The puzzle that is Marlon Brando's ireedemable sadness, in the face of every possible success, is only partially explained in "Listen to Me Marlon". Stephen Riley's recent documentary constructed from Brando's long-running audio diary.
Richard Brody pointed out that this amazing source of material - right from the horse's mouth - is diluted by an overbearing score and pointless audiovisual effects. I think the larger problem is what has been left out, rather than the annoying technique for what was left in.
The origin of Brando as a tragic figure, depicted so unerringly in "Last Tango in Paris," is explored through clips of his childhood: a voiceover where he explains how his mother was "the town drunk" and his father was a cruel barroom brawler and philanderer. He describes an inability to escape the feeling that his inner nature was simply wrong.
That began to change after moving to New York, where Brando took Method acting lessons and lived with Stella Adler, who turned out to be something of a surrogate mother. This may have been the happiest time of his life.
Success and its discontents followed. On some level he did not feel he deserved the adulation. On another he overindulged in it, in order to make up for a lifetime of deprivation. It's chilling to see interviews with the young star, awkwardly hitting on attractive female interviewers.
From this point on Brando feels increasing hounded, and disillusioned with a society he feels is obsessed with acquisition. He buys a Tahitian Island to escape and be in the company of people who don't care that he is a movie star. Later he endures the tragedies of his daughter's suicide, and his imprisonment (for killing his daughter's boyfriend).
So what was left out? One subject is his relationship, possibly intimate, with early roommate Wally Cox. There was also no mention about his late-in-life friendship with talent-giant and fellow-weirdo Michael Jackson. His battles with food addiction are also barely touched upon.
But what I missed the most was Brando turning the mirror on himself. Riley focuses on the external influences that injured him: the rapacious Hollywood execs, the press, his awful early family. I keep a diary, and one of the reasons I keep it is to have a safe area where I can explore my shortcomings and any contributions I make to unhappiness in my life. The ineluctable force that was Brando as an actor - riveting despite his mush-mouthed enunciation and improbably voice - was grounded by the rare combination of knowingness combined with a deep vulnerability. In his best performances it felt like a privilege to watch him. To explore this self-awareness, it's torments and liberations, would have made this a much better work.
A fascinating look into the life of Marlon Brando, made all the more compelling and unique through its use of Brando's own private audio and rare video recordings. If you're put off early on because it seems to be jumping around and/or it's hard to hear, stick with it. Aside from seeing many examples of Brando's absolutely brilliant acting, we see a complete view of his life, with all of its triumphs and difficulties.
Brando had problems with relationships, children, poor part selections, and was often a pain in the behind to his directors. That may also put people off, but I have to say, this documentary also shows just how laser sharp the man was. The same blistering honesty he brought to his acting roles, he also brought to life. He saw that acting was a means to an end - that time was the true currency of man - and after he had 'made it', he made sure to enjoy his life. He was a pillar of moral rectitude during the Civil Rights movement, standing up for African-Americans and later also for Native Americans. He saw through the phoniness and profiteering in the world, and sought to live his life simply in Tahiti and elsewhere. He had a difficult childhood and relationship with his father, and yet reached a point of forgiveness, understanding that his dad was a product of his own upbringing, and so on, and so on.
Despite the maelstrom of chaos and occasional controversy in his life, what emerges is the coherence of Brando's honesty and his moral code. He humiliated himself by taking parts that were ridiculous and which he later regretted, but if you put that into the context of his life and his priorities, you'll empathize with him, and will be far less prone to laughing at him. I was aware of all the elements of his story, but this documentary really brought it all together for me, and left me admiring the man even more. He was a true hero, a brilliant actor with a social conscience and an intellect that should is under-appreciated.
In terms of the documentary, there are some elements that are less effective. The scenes showing his crude digitized likeness. The audio when it's hard to understand, and which would have been helped with subtitles (turning on close caption helps, even if you're not hearing impaired). The less than even storytelling, though it's always the case that a biographer must choose what to leave in, and what to leave out. With all of that said, director Stevan Riley delivers, and there will be things in this documentary for everyone, regardless of how much you come in knowing about Brando. Strong film.
I wanted to like this more than I did.
It had a great concept: There are all these audio tapes Brando made over the years and now we get to hear them in this movie. Well I wish that there was a way we could just hear the talking on the tapes without the movie and certainly without the awful scoring of the movie where there is this repetitious music going on underneath and distracting front the talking. Plus it was all cut up too much I would have rather heard Brando manander than the editing. Anyway, this wasn't as good as I had hoped.
Since they both had life long getting down to showbiz weight issues and got very fat in the end I kind of link Brando and Welles.
Once again. like Welles, the other great movie fatman, Brando hit young and very big. But Brando had such a conflicted attitude about the whole thing. I mean I certainly understand his stance about how movie acting is made into a much bigger thing than it ought to be but on the other hand if you are lucky enough to wander into the very top of whatever a stupid culture, like ours, has to offer, you might as well find a way to enjoy it. I guess he did in his way with lots of girlfriends but then that lead to horrible trouble later on with the whole Christian and Cheyenne stuff. And the movie hits on that stuff a little which kind of surprised me and I don't think this is a movie Marlon would sign off on at all. Anyway, I would rather read about him than see movies like this.
And besides those two were a lot different, Welles being the more fortunate and more accomplished with much more to say really. Marlon had move missteps on other people's projects and just used his movies to pay off wives and children, way way too many children, and the crazy owning the island concept then ended up nowhere. A lot of money probably went in the left causes too. Indians, etc and that is good. Anyway, he had a terrible life and I'm so glad I'm not him.
good bio-doc of sorts some of his life, not all though
5 out of 5 stars easy. Documentary perfection. Marlon reminds me of myself given my own lifelong experience with depression.
Unique and fascinating. Listen To Me Marlon is an extraordinary in depth look at the personal and intimate life of the Hollywood icon. Told by Marlon Brando himself, it's effortless to connect with his life experiences and his tribulations as an actor in that period of time. There's also a sense of honesty and truth as he reveals a dark side to himself hidden from the public until today which is interesting for any film fan to know.
A fascinating documentary that delves wonderfully into the mind of the brilliant and troubled actor. It is mostly one-sided, but that's the point. It gives us the inimate thoughts and beliefs of the great actor. That is what makes it so interesting.
Épico, obrigado Marlon
magnetically narrated, influentially opined, morally stood, melodically bound, beautifully depicted
<3 him in Apocalypse Now <3
Kurtz: Horror has a face... and you must make a friend of horror. Horror and moral terror are your friends.
1st James Bond ('Everything or Nothing'); now the original Godfather, Stevan Riley has made 2 brilliant documentaries on my 2 favorite screen characters!!