Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Listen To Me Marlon

In 1999, Time Magazine compiled a list – The 100 Most Important People of the Century. This list was rammed full of historical icons, people like Albert Einstein, Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela for example – y’know, legendary and historic figures. But alongside people like these, 3 acting professionals made the list. They were Charlie Chaplin, Marilyn Monroe and Marlon Brando. Everybody knows Chaplin and Monroe, even if they haven’t seen any of their films. But it shocks me to learn that many people aren’t aware of Brando, one of the finest actors of all time. If you’re one of those people, reading this article right now and thinking to yourself “who the f**k is Marlon Brando?”, don’t let that put you off the simply brilliant Listen To Me Marlon


Out now on DVD & Blu-Ray, Listen To Me Marlon – written, edited and directed by Stevan Riley – is a documentary that aims to bring viewers the definitive Brando. But this isn’t just a boring, traditional love-letter to the man with his contemporaries and film historians acting like they know everything about the man, talking at us with anecdotes. No, director Stevan Riley had exclusive access to the extraordinary unheard and unseen personal archive of Brando, featuring hundreds of hours of audio recorded over the course of his life. As we go on a journey through Brando’s career and extraordinary life away from screen and stage, we have Brando as our guide – despite the fact the great man died in 2004. As we fully explore the complexities of Brando, we uniquely receive the story entirely from Brando’s perspective. This is Brando on Brando. It’s an experience.


Listen To Me Marlon is an incredibly fascinating piece of work. Everybody has always known that Brando was an interesting man, granted – from his refusal to accept Academy Awards to turning up on set to Apocalypse Now overweight, drunk and clueless as to what the film was having not read the script – but these audio tapes add a new layer to the Brando story. Painting a portrait of a man far more complex than I think anyone could’ve even imagined, these tapes of Brando are historic. Starting many of his tapes with “Listen to me, Marlon…”, they serve as diaries, bizarre musings, confessions and sometimes even self-hypnosis in an attempt to cure his anxiety, obesity and other issues. We aren’t necessarily told why or how often he made these tapes, but judging by the sheer volume of them – we must assume he did a lot of them, and often. Whilst these tapes narrate the journey, we see stills and archive footage, as you can imagine. But the one thing I would assume you wouldn’t expect – I know I didn’t – is that on a couple of occasions in the film, we see a digital map of Brando’s face, animated and speaking these tapes to us. It’s a little unsettling and feels pulled out of a sci-fi film. For me, this didn’t really work.

But on the whole, Listen To Me Marlon is an expertly made future classic which will forever serve as the definitive look at one of acting’s greatest icons. For many years to come, the acting stars of the future will use this as education. Although the legendary Brando quite troublingly speaks in his tapes about his disenchantment with acting, I’m sure he would still be pleased to know how much he’s adored and aspired to. And he’d surely be delighted to know that this film exists, and that people will learn from it.


Listen To Me Marlon is the film Marlon Brando deserves. It’s compelling, complex and deep – just like Brando was. It’s not a cliché-ridden biopic, nor is it a cheesy documentary filled with ‘talking heads’ and narration from someone who never met the man. This is Brando in his own words. And if you don’t know the man, or aren’t interested in acting or Hollywood history, then do not worry. This isn’t a study of an actor, it’s a study of a man.

Listen To Me Marlon is one of the freshest and most unique documentaries in years, and a solid tribute to one of the greatest actors of all time. This is how you make a documentary. 5/5.

★★★★★


Sam Love


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