Say what you will about his politics or personal life but Marlon Brando reinvented acting for a generation of performers and audiences.
“Hit ‘em. Knock ‘em over with an attitude, with a word, with a look. Be surprising. Figure out a way to do it that has never been done before. You want to stop that movement from the popcorn to the mouth.”
Brando explains that and more in the revealing “Listen To Me Marlon,” drawn from hundreds of hours of personal audio recordings he made during his life.
Director Stevan Riley builds a posthumous autobiography narrated by Brando out of the recordings which are juxtaposed and supplemented with extensive archival news footage and clips from Brando’s films.
In the illuminating and compelling film Brando analyzes every aspect of his career, from the high of “A Streetcar Named Desire” to the low of “Superman.”
He goes from analytical enthusiasm for his craft – “When a camera is close up on you, your face becomes the stage” – to disenchantment with “lying for a living,” the “illusion of success” and “feeling like an animal in a zoo.”
Its as if the haunting, flickering digital talking head that Brando made for the superhero film – in which he plays Superman’s father – is whispering in our ear. He even predicts that all acting someday computerized.
“You watch. It’s going to happen.”
He talks about his childhood, military school, his parents whom he calls drunks, his movies, his marriages, his children and his political causes – including a reference to appearing in Kenosha on behalf of Native American rights – in ways that illuminate and comment on every aspect of his life and career.
The result is a soulful, intimate, hypnotic and dreamlike selfie by someone still restless in the grave.
***1/2 Three and one half stars
Produced by John Batsek, George Chignell, R.J. Cutler. Written and directed by Stevan Riley.
Approximate running time: 95 minutes. Not rated.
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