Directed by Stevan Riley.
THE PLOT: For much of his life, actor Marlon Brando made audio recordings of his thoughts, observations, memories and at times, self hypnosis. Director Stevan Riley has compiled these recordings and made them available to the public for the first time in this new documentary.
THE VERDICT: The idea that Marlon Brando was recording the intimate details of his inner life for many years is an odd one; this is a man who was notoriously private and, although his life was marred with tragedy, did his best to stay out of the spotlight as himself. His acting was another story. Director Stevan Riley, with the full cooperation of the Brando estate, has edited what must be hundreds of hours of audio into a 103-minute film that finally allows audiences to hear what was going on in Brando’s mind, 11 years after his death.
‘Listen to Me Marlon’ takes audiences through Brando’s early success as an actor, his feelings about it and his love of the job he found himself doing. Of course, things begin to sour after Brando has bad experiences on several film sets and he discusses this on the tapes, as well as the fact that he has had his head digitised, and this must surely be the swansong for flesh and blood actors. The observations and insights offered in the film are fascinating, as this is a side of Brando that was never allowed to be seen in the spotlight, and one that gives a greater understanding of who that actor was behind closed doors.
Director Riley has compiled the audio recordings with archive footage of Marlon Brando in interviews, newsreel footage and answer phone messages. The screen is rarely blank however, with footage from Brando’s films and interviews blended with what seems to be home movie recordings and shots of homes that Brando lived in. The first half of the film is well paced and engaging, but it is after the one hour mark that it seems Listen to Me Marlon runs out of steam and loses its way slightly.
In all, ‘Listen to Me Marlon’ is a fascinating look at the life of a notoriously private and reclusive actor. Brando’s tapes are frank, touching and often funny, but the film could have done with a tighter edit to keep the pace and momentum going. That said, if you are looking for a reminder of what a remarkable talent Marlon Brando was, and always wondered what he really thought behind closed doors, ‘Listen to Me Marlon’ is a must see.
Review by Brogen Hayes

Listen to Me Marlon
Review by Brogen Hayes
4.0A must see
  • filmbuff2011

    11 years after his death, Marlon Brando is as iconic as ever. His seismic contribution to the art of screen acting cannot be under-estimated. Yet underneath all the cool exterior was a man who was troubled by his own demons, particularly relating to his tempestuous private and family life. Listen To Me Marlon is a revealing look into his life and mind, as told through previously unreleased recordings, confessionals and self-hypnosis made by Brando over the course of his colourful life. Like the superb, but as yet unreleased Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words, Listen To Me Marlon is an intimate portrait of an unconventional actor who challenged public perceptions of what being an actor means. Director Stevan Riley starts with a hazy, computer-generated Brando (possibly borrowed from the one used to re-create his Jor-El for Superman Returns) relating his early experiences of studying acting in New York under Stella Adler, who favoured the Stanislavsky Method. That meant an actor fully immersing him or herself in the character, to find the truth of the character in the situation and the environment of the story. For his screen debut The Men, he closely observed paraplegics. Of course, he also stated that all acting is a lie. Stardom and Hollywood fame beckoned with an Oscar-winning performance in On The Waterfront. Subsequent roles in the likes of Mutiny On The Bounty saw him lose his sure footing, turning him into a liability. But then Hollywood re-discovered him again with The Godfather, Last Tango In Paris and Apocalypse Now (Brando doesn’t hold back on throwing insults at Francis Coppola for the latter). Brando also became an activist, throwing his weight behind the Black Panthers (the subject of another great documentary out this week) and the Civil Rights movement. His fractious relationship with his ex-wife and children didn’t help, culminating in a cry for help from his children, who died far too young. Who was Brando really? You’ll certainly get a good idea from this absorbing documentary. With permission from the Brando Estate, Riley has amassed a virtual treasure-trove of materials from Brando’s archive. It makes for a very entertaining visual poem, from a man who often spoke in rhythms. For example: ‘an actor is at most a poet and at least an entertainer’. Brando had a love-hate relationship with acting, dismissing it as ‘an empty and useless profession’, while also accepting that it’s an art form. He also realised the need for people to escape into the dark, for cinema to hold up a Shakespearean mirror to reality. It’s a tricky patchwork to put together but Riley, also the editor, does a skilful job at weaving together a coherent portrait of this most talented and tortured of actors. You’ll come out knowing a lot more about Brando than you expected. For anyone with a genuine love of cinema and an interest in the art of screen acting, this is simply a must-see. ****