Listen to Me Marlon is Gareth Higgins’ favourite film of 2015. That was more than enough reason for me to import the DVD from the UK (the film never made it to Winnipeg) so I could watch this extraordinary, brilliant biographical (and autobiographical) documentary on the life of Marlon Brando, one of the greatest actors in the history of film.
Gareth has written a wonderful review of Listen to Me Marlon, so while I will say a few words here, I would encourage you to find his reviews of his fourteen favourite films of the year on the Movies & Meaning Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/meaningmovies/
Marlon Brando died in 2004 after a tumultuous life that included a lot of pain along with the good times. Brando was quite reclusive but made hundreds of hours of audio recordings which were shared with Stevan Riley, the director of Listen to Me Marlon. Most of the documentary’s narration (which includes a wide variety of clips featuring Brando in films and interviews) therefore comes from Brando himself. The result in not only endlessly fascinating (as we hear Brando talk about his life and share his thoughts on various issues) but also quite haunting.
As we hear Brando talk (as ‘one of us’, as Gareth points out in his review), one of the lines that struck me was in an interview in which Brando was asked whether he primarily made films that contained a message he supported (he was keenly interested, and active, in various social justice issues). His answer was yes, but soon we see that, for a while at least, he made some awful films just for the money.
To quote Gareth: “It’s clear that Brando wanted to make art that would aim at the truth about life; and that his own search for meaning was lonely. It’s also clear from his poorer choices that the best acting is that done to serve the story, rather than the ego - or bank balance - of the storyteller.”
Another highlight for me: While Brando’s difficulties with authority are well-known, Listen to Me Marlon provides layers of context for his anti-authoritarian ideas and behaviour. For film buffs and those who want to see a finely-crafted film about one person’s struggle to use his gifts to live a life with integrity, Listen to Me Marlon is not to be missed. ****. My mug is way up.