Listen To Me Marlon


Marlon Brando

by Sherif Awad

Although he left us eleven year ago, Marlon Brando is still considered to be one of the greatest actors ever lived as he pioneered great performances on film and stage not to mention his rebellious activism on just causes. My first Brando experience was seeing Superman in 1978 in Opera Cinema at Downtown Cairo where my uncle explained to me that this is a great actor making a small cameo and the filmmakers tended to attract his adoring moviegoers to watch him play the father of Superman.
This week, after going to two festivals in Cyprus and Italy, I was lucky to discover in my living room a new documentary called Listen to Me Marlon by British filmmaker Stevan Riley, who made public for the first time clips from the hundreds of hours of private recordings, which Brando made of himself over the course of his life. This massive cache of tapes includes the actor's musings about life and his craft, answering machine tapes and his homemade self-hypnosis tapes in which he begs himself to take it easy on the desserts he adores. Riley juxtaposes these audio files with archival footage, clips from the actor's films, family home movies and news footage. However, the way Riley (who previously directed the excellent James Bond documentary Everything or Nothing) acquired these recordings, private photos and 8mm home movies remains a mystery.
The film starts with a 3D computerized profile of Brando trying to reach us from the afterlife. It is a 3D image of Brando's head that the actor had made for himself in the 1980s with software called Cyberware. We started to learn from the narrative a lot about Brando's work, his personal life and the tragedies that surrounded him and his children. Many people left positive marks on Brando's career including Stella Adler and Elia Kazan while many made unhealed wounds like this parents who were both alcoholics. However, Brando was born with great talents: He used to imitate kids he played with as well as animals on the family farm to distract his mother from drinking. Using rare footage, we get to witness Brando's breakthrough roles in A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) and On the Waterfront (1954), his first Oscar-winning performance. The film also explores his love with Tahitians while on location of Mutiny on the Bounty (1962) that was followed by many unsuccessful film roles until his resurrection in The Godfather and Last Tango in Paris. Behind the legend, many personal heartbreaks occurred: When his son Christian Brando shot his sister Cheyenne’s boyfriend to death in 1990, and was sentenced to ten years in prison and when his daughter Cheyenne committed suicide five years later.
In the final minutes, the director intuitively uses the death of Don Corleone in the Godfather as a moving image for Brando’s farewell to our world.