Listen to Me Marlon opens on a digital rendering of Marlon Brando’s face as he laments that the process may signal the end of great acting as we know it. We cut back to this face intermittently throughout the film, it serving as a motif for the disparity between Brando and, really, the world.
The film is a series of recorded audio tapes that Brando recorded himself. Tapes that have not been heard by the public until now. We also get archival footage of interviews and newscasts. We hear through news footage about a shooting that occurred, a shooting that pushed the aging reclusive star back into the limelight.
He muses about people hiding aspects of themselves; how everyone does it, but the face always betrays their cause. “Acting is surviving,” Brando says. We all do it. We all lie. We all have the capacity to be great actors.
Brando’s is a mind that eludes a lot of people. His dismissal of Hollywood and what it stood for made him appear a “brat or a brute” as one newspaper clipping reported. Most of what we have of Brando’s identity is what oozes onto the screen in his best roles, or the outspoken speeches that he gave in interviews that condemned Hollywood and the government.
This documentary expands the knowledge of Brando’s inner-workings immensely, giving as inside of a glimpse into the star’s mind then we could ever hope to get.
Much of the film is depicted with still images, dramatized footage, and footage from his films. This does take away, albeit just slightly, from the proceedings, but, given the nature of its subject, this is unavoidable. Still, the audio dominates to perfection. You could watch the film with your eyes closed and get a similar experience. The audio achieves a transcendent level of poignancy.
Although it relies heavily on the audio track, Listen to Me Marlon still reaches a level of insight into its subject that is unparalleled. Brando meditates on his acting techniques with a passion. His heart on his sleeve, he opens up with vigor and lucidity. Because there are no present day interviews, the film is essentially all Brando. It almost feels like it is his final acting performance, a magnum opus of self-evaluations told with an unlikely candor.
The man was prolific. His career an unsurpassed legacy. And his words here are captivating. Listen to Me Marlon embodies an identity in the most entrancing way. It is a must-see for any aspiring actor or film lover out there.
As always, thanks for reading!
Have you seen Listen to Me Marlon? If so, what did you think? Let me know in the comments!
–Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)