This is the greatest documentary on Marlon Brando to date and it's hard to see how it might be bettered.
The film-makers who, previously had made the wonderful 'Searching for Sugarman', were already signed up to do the documentary, were researching it in cooperation with the archivists of the Marlon Brando estate. but as yet had no clear idea how it would be done.
One of the questions that they asked the archivists was what new material do you have that hasn't been seen or filmed before.
By chance at that time the archivists were unpacking a lot of boxes which contained hundreds of audio recordings that Brando had made during his life with dictaphones and cassette recorders, most of which had never been heard before.
This raised the question as to whether it would it be interesting to use these tapes as the narrative voice for the whole film. This idea gained traction because,after a certain point, Brando gave very few interviews and strenuously tried to protect his private life and the private life of his family. They weren't sure whether it would work and the 'Making of..' short film shows the extraordinary amount of effort that not only went into transcribing all the tapes but also tagging all the subjects and points of interest.
The basic narrative arc of Brando's life is already well-known. He shot to fame with 'A Streetcar Named Desire', gained cult status with 'The Wild One' and won the Best Actor Oscar for 'On The Waterfront'. He went on to make a significant number of other greats but circumstances and bad judgment led to a decline in his fame and fortune. His triumphant second-act return in 'The Godfather' and 'Apocalypse Now' sealed his legendary status.
The film-makers have used this trajectory but keep looping back to this childhood as his first 12 year or so were marked by the abuse he received from his alcoholic father. Embedded in this sensitive child were tropes that haunted and scarred his adult behaviour. His was an extraordinary life, Shakespearean in its scale and grandeur, lived in the glare of a thousand paparazzi flashbulbs. Like Gaugin and Robert Louis Stevenson before him, Brando was drawn to Polynesia where he created the ultimate hideaway on the remote atoll of Tetiaroa.
Since his death in 2004, few would doubt that he should be considered the greatest modern film actor. 'Listen to Me Marlon' is a moving tribute to a main man.
|THE GENERALIST ARCHIVE|
BRANDO FOR OUR TIMES
This essay by Susan Mizruchi the author of 'Brando’s Smile: His Life, Thought, and Work' (W.W. Norton, 2014) was posted on www.marlonbrando.com on April 3rd 2014. It says some important things about Brando's social conscience.
|Brando and Dylan|
|Sacheen Littlefeather at the Oscars|
We've all got our memories of Brando and, for me, several of these are bound up with my time at the NME working as Dick Tracy. The first came when I was asked to run the film section and I wrote my first ever film review - 'The Missouri Breaks' starring Marlon Brando and Jack Nicholson and directed by Arthur Penn - which was published on 19th June 1976 when I was 26.is the latest example of that breed of nouveau Westerns which began with Butch Cassidy and was picked up by Peckinpah's Pat Garrett And Billy The Kid. The hallmark of them all is a brace of super-stars backed by a top director. They combine authentic backgrounds with '70s jive to produce a new kind of synthesis between the Old West and the New in the same way that modern country bands have kept the notion of the frontier alive.
The next story is more impressive. Its about the time when I almost interviewed Marlon Brando.
|Original film still from EMI Press Pack|
My final story connects with Apocalypse Now. I had been documenting the troubled progress of the movie for more than a year I would say and I arrived in Los Angeles in late 1979 the week that the movie was opening on Hollywood Boulevard. I'd just arrived at Barry's flat, fresh from the airport. It was mid-afternoon and I was introduced to Lance (I think it was) who was lead singer of The Motive, a punk band that Barry was managing. Lance was born on Hollywood Boulevard and later took me on a special guided tour. Anyways up, I was just getting a cup of tea down me and trying to acclimatise after the long flight when Lance said did I want to watch Apocalypse Now. I said sure I was thinking of going to the cinema to see it while I was there. He said "no man, I've got it here" and he put on a pirate video of the film that had somehow been sneaked out the studio. When I heard the whirr of those helicopter blades my paranoia levels started to rise ! That night, helicopters with searchlights were patrolling the skies of LA. As someone told me: 'San Francisco is the jungle but LA is the zoo.'
|Producer-director Michael winner discusses a death scene with Marlon Brando on the set of 'The Nightcomers' [Films and Filming. 1971] THE GENERALIST ARCHIVE|