You would think, that the man who is quite possibly the greatest film actor of the 20th century, would get a documentary that would live up to his legendary reputation. Well, we got that. And it’s in Marlon Brando’s own words. His voice, his recordings, his descriptions. Filmmaker Stevan Riley has painstakingly constructed a riveting chronicle of the iconic performer’s life, using Brando’s private audio collection that includes home recordings, hypnosis sessions, business meetings, and press interviews. All of that, along with an endless video reservoir, and film clips from some of the greatest movies ever made, make for a documentary that is not only fascinating, but amongst the finest of its kind ever produced.
“A Streetcar Named Desire”, “The Wild One”, “On the Waterfront”, “The Godfather”, “Last Tango in Paris” and “Apocalypse Now”. You should know those. But do you also realize that Marlon was an incredible Mark Antony in a 1953 film version of “Julius Caesar”, or that he sang and danced as Sky Masterson in the 1955 film version of “Guys and Dolls”? Versatile thespian, that Brando. It covers the flops too, like 1962’s “Mutiny on the Bounty” and 1967’s “A Countess from Hong Kong”. And the big money extended cameos in blockbusters like 1978’s “Superman”. Brando himself tells you all about it, and you’ll also hear his pain and anguish when discussing the murder charge brought against his son, Christian, as well as the suicide of his troubled daughter, Cheyenne. It’s riveting stuff.
Do you know that I once had an argument with someone who insisted that the line “Stella! Stella!” came from a “Seinfeld” episode? Yes, I know the Elaine Benes character mimicked Brando in an episode once, but no–this woman swore that the exclamation originated from the Larry David series. In informing said person about “Streetcar”, I was met with a blank stare. The collapse of the culture continues… Quite simply, if you don’t realize the importance of Marlon Brando to film and theatre acting, then you don’t know very much at all. For instance, some performers refer to film performing as “Before Brando” and “After Brando”. “Listen to Me Brando” should be one of the first steps in your education, if not the man’s actual cinematic resume. It’s an exceptional documentary, that wonderfully encapsulates a man’s torrid life in 95 minutes, or so. The love affairs, the self-loathing, the alcoholic parents, the exorbitant lifestyle–it’s all here. It may be the best documentary of 2015.