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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Rebecca Brando Is Pleased With Listen to Me Marlon

Posted By on Tue, Aug 11, 2015 at 11:00 AM

click to enlarge Brando as he appeared in A Streetcar Named Desire - N/A
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  • Brando as he appeared in A Streetcar Named Desire

More than a few people consider Marlon Brando (1924-2004) to be among the greatest actors of all time. His performances in classics like A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), On The Waterfront (1954) and The Godfather (1972) continue to inspire entire generations of actors to pursue their craft.

What set Brando apart from other movie stars was how he brought a gripping realism to the screen, often becoming the characters he was playing. He left nothing of himself for the audience to see.

Much has been written about Marlon Brando, both during his lifetime and since his passing a decade ago. Seemingly everyone had something to say about him, with one notable exception: the actor himself. In Listen to Me Marlon, a new documentary now playing at the Opera Plaza, Brando is finally given an opportunity to speak in his own words and in his own voice.

Filmmaker Stevan Riley made the film with the help of Rebecca Brando, the actor’s daughter. She provided hours upon hours of audio recordings the screen legend made during his lifetime — footage which serves as the film's narration. We learn that Brando was a tortured soul with a strong sense of social justice. During a 1960s television interview seen briefly in the film, he admits that his choice of roles often coincided with his personal beliefs.

Brando takes viewers back to his troubled childhood in Omaha, Neb., and follows him as he moves to New York City during the late 1940s. His extraordinarily quick rise to the top of his profession was no doubt helped along by his mentor, the legendary acting teacher Stella Adler, who's seen in clips instructing her students on how to delve into their souls in order to find the the truth in the stories they’re enacting.

Listen to Me, Marlon
is a journey across the decades with a gifted (if troubled) man. As Brando speaks to the audience from the past, sharing memories about the film's prodution, we learn about the techniques he employed in order to create each character. Brando had little use for authority, feelings which he developed as a result of his tumultuous relationship with his abusive father. He didn’t think much of the film industry either, which he felt was strictly about commerce — he refers to the concept of film-as-art as “bullshit”.

Privacy was of the utmost importance to him, yet he knew that he could use his celebrity in support of causes he believed in. Long before it was “safe” to stand for social justice, Brando marched with Martin Luther King and famously declined to accept his Godfather Oscar in protest of the film industry’s treatment of Native Americans.

Brando was a lonely, anguished man who suffered through a series of bad marriages, bad press, a son who killed his daughter’s boyfriend, and a daughter who took her own life. For all of his successes, Brando lived a hard life.

“I knew him as well as one could,” Rebecca Brando told SF Weekly. “I lived primarily with my mom. I spent time with my dad on weekends.”

She said that her father rarely came to school functions or to parent-teacher meetings. “He’d call me and say, 'Come on over and swim with your dad,'” Rebecca said. “We’d talk about psychology.”

Brando said that overall, she understood her father. “It was hard to figure out the complete person because his life was so complicated,” she said. “Then these tapes became available. How marvelous it is for him to finally be able to explain himself.”

Brando said that she was quite pleased with the final film. “I’m relieved,” she said. “Finally we have a good piece about who my father is,” she said. “The film humanizes him.”

Brando said that her dad was a visionary. “He saw far ahead, beyond a lot of the petty things which occupy us.”           

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