Listen to Me, Marlon (2015)

Listen to Me, Marlon (2015)

Dave author picRecently I’ve realised that I’m drawn to documentaries that are recognisant of their own failure – that is, the failure of the documentary as a factual medium. Which means that Listen to Me, Marlon, a biographical doco on Marlon Brando told largely through his own hitherto-unheard personal recordings, answering machine messages and the like, was right up my alley.

You see, from its opening moments, where a Brando recounts the “digitalisation” of his image (presumably for Donner’s Superman), Stevan Riley’s film recognises that a complete, ‘honest’ portrait of Brando – or anyone, really – is impossible. Rather, he collects together a contradictory, fictionalised, mythologised Brando, whose self-reflections are regularly undermined or refuted by archival footage. Brando regularly speaks of being a conman, and you eventually sense that his greatest achievement as an actor is the way in which he has created himself.

It’s somewhat of a shame, then, that Riley squanders this potent approach by cobbling these materials together into a fairly linear, fairly conventional narrative. He hits the major beats in Brando’s lifestyle – his early success, his family troubles, his notable films, his politics – without adopting the same thoughtful, borderline-radical approach he takes to the form of the film. Still great, though.

3.5 stars

 

2 thoughts on “Listen to Me, Marlon (2015)

  1. Pingback: The Best Films of 2015 | ccpopculture

  2. where did you get the idea that brando was digitalised for donner’s superman? these clips were made with Scott Billups in the late 80’s.a full decade plus after donner’s superman.

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