Listen to Me Marlon

Aug 26, 2015

Hear a deceased acting titan in his own words and images--a great documentary.

Listen to Me Marlon

Grade: A

Director: Stevan Riley (Blue Blood)

Screenplay: Riley, Peter Ettedgui (Everything or Nothing)

Cast: Marlon Brando (On the Waterfront)

Runtime: 95 min

by John DeSando

I am not the first to suggest that Marlon Brando was more interesting than the characters he played, including Stanley Kowalski and Terry Malloy. The new documentary, Listen to Me Marlon, takes three directors to do the acting legend justice. They do it well by searching hundreds of Brando's recordings and interviews to piece together a fascinating, unbiased look at his life.

They even have digitized versions of his head that they fit his voice to in a novel and slightly creepy fashion.  The suggestion that he has come back from the grave is not farfetched as the voice is authentic and the verbals those of a consummate actor who morphs into different voices given the circumstance.

Beyond Brando’s observations about his roles such as in Lady from Shanghai, which he is ashamed of, are painful recounting about his daughter and son. His son murders her husband, serves 10 years while she subsequently commits suicide after several attempts. Brando's public reactions are sincerely remorseful that he couldn't have done more, especially for his troubled son.

But then, who's to know if the great actor is not acting?  Such is the magic of his art that I would even suggest the artifice of his public persona. One thing is for certain, the great method acting teacher, Stella Adler, foresaw a world-class actor in her young student.

The glory and gloom of this famous man are all there.  The clips from his performances are as fresh and exciting as ever. Those from his later successes such as  Last Tango, Godfather, and Apocalypse Now are testimony to his inherent genius that as a fat man (think Orson Welles) he still leads the field (a comfort, no doubt, to such current geniuses as Daniel Day-Lewis). 

Listen to Me Marlon is a seamless song to arguably the greatest actor who ever lived.  He paid dearly for his successes and profligacies in equal measure.

Regardless of its occasionally tawdry subjects, this doc is for anyone interested in one of the few titans of the stage and screen.

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at