Most remember Marlon Brando from great films, such as Last Tango in Paris, but what is Brando by Brando?
Marlon Brando is a Hollywood phenomenon, so it is refreshing to see a new documentary on the star. Created entirely from scratch, with a mix of audiotapes he would speak to since the 1950s, imagine a narration of Brando’s thoughts flowing onto cassettes, which offer a possibility of learning more about the personal story of a legend.
Talking to his Dictaphone, as if he was rehearsing the lines of a script or reading aloud a nice story, the cassettes all together remind us what Brando is like in the flesh, but with a slightly different throw than in any previous films on him. The film is called Listen To Me Marlon and the name itself is inspired by one tape in particular that had the primary purpose of helping him with mediation, a practice he had been devoted to all his life.
It was quite a lot about self-reliance – Brando would deal with it by creating a calm space in his mind that would become his private retreat whenever he would need it to be. Marlon had a mother who dealt with alcoholism as a problem and it was quite severe – his childhood was also filled with a lot of conflicting moments with his father, who characteristically was not inclined to speaking about his past with his son. The film touches on these subjects because Marlon had a tough childhood and it almost feels as if you are there back in the frame once more, as you sit back and enjoy the revelations made in the tape because they are very private thoughts.
The movie steps on different sides to Marlon, from his humanitarian work to his participation in movements, with legendary leaders, such as Martin Luther King. It is so brilliant to see Marlon in action in the flesh because most of the time we really know him on A Streetcar Named Desire, or The Godfather. He has spoken out for the rights of Native Americans in Hollywood, civil rights in the United States of America, and kept most of his life private from his family.
Marlon is good at organizing meet-ups but he wasn’t kind to the idea of his family learning about his craft and how he manages to pull off one brilliant performance after another, or how Hollywood ticks even. His earlier films were more deeply interwoven with his past and his father: scenes of betrayal and getting upset rang close to home for a man who had trust issues, was without any friends but wanted true friends, people he could count on throughout his life, and was surrounded by people out to make big bucks through him.
The documentary is certainly very interesting, especially one particular side to Marlon Brando: he is a contemporary actor, who researched for each and every role, and liked to be somebody else entirely on screen. It’s so tough to imagine that it can actually be a life choice worth enjoying because going to press wearing someone else’s shoes is doing everything wrong. But Marlon loved doing it all his life, so much he would be in-character even after a film wrapped up; that is not as unheard off (or unfamiliar) – when you are doing the sixties and everything is monochrome, you cannot imagine a technicolor steak for lunch, during the lunch break. It’s almost a blessing in disguise that you have “Ray-Ban ruling” to fall back upon!