Review: Listen to Me Marlon

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DIR: Stevan Riley • WRI: Stevan Riley, Peter Ettedgui • PRO: John Battsek, Helen Bennitt, George Chignell, R.J. Cutler • DOP: Ole Bratt Birkeland • ED: Stevan Riley • DES: Kristian Milsted •  CAST: Marlon Brando

 

Award-winning British filmmaker and Oxford history graduate, Stevan Riley has combed through thousands of hours of the self-taped musings of actor Marlon Brando and combined them with studio archive footage and stunning portrait photography to create an engaging and intimate portrait of one of Hollywood’s greatest acting legends. From the outset, we are brought on a journey through Marlon Brando’s life with the actor himself speaking about his experience and craft, often in the third person.

Interspersed with film footage, tons of photography and news reports of the later tragedies that occurred in the actor’s personal life, the use of Brando’s own voice throughout is powerful and revelatory. A digitized image of Brando’s face speaking, opens the film and this device is effectively returned to throughout the documentary. Brando speaking the lines of Macbeth’s “tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow” speech, “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”, mirrors the actor’s love-hate relationship with the business he chose. He refers to the illusion of success and how he can’t stand it, how it “removes you from reality”. He reflects upon his early days and refers to himself as some sort of confused “mechanical doll” who “felt inadequate because he didn’t have enough education.”

We learn that Group Theatre actor and teacher Stella Adler had a huge impact on his career in the early days in New York and even took him into her home telling him, “Not to worry, that the world would be hearing from him.”  Thus, in 1954, Brando became the youngest ever actor to receive an Academy Award for his portrayal of Terry Malloy in On The Waterfront.

Brando speaks about the mythical nature of film, of its power of escape. He maintains that the audience makes the film. The audience is actually doing the acting. The audience wants to have been the “contender” and wants to “have been someone” and feels like the failure too sitting there watching the lighted characters flickering on screen in the dark auditorium. He posits that films allow the audience to play out their fantasies – to kiss the beautiful woman, to beat down the aggressors, to be the hero, to flee from their fears and escape reality briefly.

As a child, Brando would cut lawns and collect bottles to gather together 10 cents to go to the weekly movie. Those hours were a magical escape from the roughness of his father and his poetic mother who was also the town drunk. The pain of his own life fuelled some of his roles. He explains that the actor must bring some truth of himself to each moment but that some roles are closer to the actor’s real life. Brando hovers between having an obsessive love for the craft of acting to a deep hatred of the business. At one point he tells an interviewer, “there is no such thing as a great movie, it’s all money, it’s all bullshit”, and for periods in his life he quits acting altogether in favor of activist work in the civil rights movement and regularly spoke out about the plight of the American Indian and America’s lack of honesty with its own history.

In March, 1973, Native American Indian, Sacheen Littlefeather accepted his Oscar for Vito Corleone in The Godfather on his behalf. Political to the end and careful to choose meaningful work when he could, he also possessed a good sense of humour.  His searing honesty about some of the acting choices he’d made in the fallow years are entertaining, especially his references to Candy, the worst movie he ever made. He says he inherited his sense of the absurd from his mother, who herself was an actress. Despite her alcoholism, he was devoted to her, unlike his father who sent him away to military school against his wishes. It was up in the library there, lonely and dejected he’d thumb through copies of National Geographic magazine where he developed his fascination for Tahiti. He would finally visit there one day when he famously turned down the opportunity to star as Laurence of Arabia in favour of starring as Fletcher Christian in Mutiny On The Bounty, which was filmed on location in Tahiti. He speaks of the natural unmanaged faces of the island people comparing their lack of manufacture. He opines that the white man “lives the nightmare of the want of things.”

Famous for being a reclusive, he bought his own Tahitian island but maintained that rather than seeing himself as an owner, he paid money for the privilege of visiting and spending time with these wonderful natives. Brando’s musings are those of a deep thinker who struggled with his demons and this documentary, with a nod of respect to Marlon Brando’s fierce sense of privacy, tastefully touches upon and manages to illuminate subtly the tragedies that befell his family life.

This is a rare view into the life and mind of one of the gems of Western theatre and film.  From his electrifying performance as the brutish Stanley Kowalski in Streetcar Named Desire, right up to his hulking, ominous portrayal of Kurtz in Heart of Darkness, we are talked through the ups and downs of his life’s work. It is original and spellbinding for its intimacy as we get a posthumous narration of sorts from the actor himself. A must see for Marlon Brando fans or those interested in an insight into the acting life and the price celebrities often pay for success.

Amy Redmond

15A (see IFCO for details)

102 minutes

Listen to Me Marlon is released 30th October 2015

Listen to Me Marlon –  Official Website

 

 

 

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Marlon Brando at Light House Cinema

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A season of films starring the legendary Marlon Brando at Light House Cinema

Screen icon Marlon Brando is the latest inspiration for the Light House Cinema’s on-going series of seasons and retrospectives. Having already presented seasons focusing on Ennio Morricone, Alfred Hitchcock, Film Noir, Tim Burton and John Hughes, Dublin’s coolest cinema is now looking at the legacy of the surly, sexy star whose acting technique revolutionised actors’ screen presence forever.

From August 21st, the season looks back at some incredible films starring the screen giant.

A Streetcar Named Desire From August 21

“I’m the King around here, and don’t you forget it”

Elia Kazan’s sweaty working-class drama features Brando as a fiery brute with a complicated relationship with the women in his life. Based on the play by Tennessee Williams, it’s easy to see why the young, intense Brando caught the attention of the world.

The Wild One From August 28

‘What are you rebelling against?’ ‘What have you got?’

The spirit of post-war rebellion is at the forefront of stylish and iconic biker drama, The Wild One. Brando cemented his bad-boy image and forever made leather jackets cool with his role as Johnny, leader of one of two rival biker gangs who invade and cause havoc in a small town.

 

On The Waterfront From September 4

“I coulda’ been a contender”

Brando plays down on his luck longshoreman who battles the corruption of the dockers’ union boss. Exquisitely shot and extraordinarily moving, this second collaboration between Brando and Kazan is one of the most important film of the 1950’s and one of the most beloved of all time.

 

Guys and Dolls From September 11

“Luck be a lady tonight”

In quite a dramatic change from his usual fare, Brando turned his hand to the musical genre for a big-screen adaptation of Guys and Dolls. Co-starring Frank Sinatra and Jean Simmons, this highly entertaining musical classic set in the world of high-rolling gamblers is a rare light tone in Brando’s filmography.

 

The Godfather From September 18

“I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse”

Generally accepted as among the greatest films ever made and quite possibly Brando’s most memorable role, Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather follows the crumbling Corleone mafia family as the ageing patriarch (Brando) prepares his son Michael (Al Pacino) for taking his place as head of the family.

 

Last Tango in Paris From September 25

“Let me peruse you and remember you… always like this”

Barnardo Bertolucci directs Brando as an enigmatic American who embarks on a strange sexual relationship with a young French woman. Controversial upon its release for its sexual content, the film ensured that the world didn’t forget that Marlon Brando is an actor willing to take risks.

 Apocalypse Now (part of the Light House Cinema Book Club) Sep 30

“The horror… the horror”

Though his screen time in the film only amounts to a matter of minutes, it is undeniable that Brando’s stunning turn as Colonel Kurtz is the dark heart and soul of Coppola’s stunning war drama. This month, Light House Cinema and Chapters Cinema Book Club will read Joseph Conrad’s novella Heart of Darkness, before  screening Apocalypse Now. Following the screening, there will a discussion of the adaptation in the Light House bar.

 

Tickets for the season are now on sale.

SPECIAL OFFER: Any 3 films for €21 when booked in person at the box office

See www.lighthousecinema.ie for more information.

 

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March Magic Lantern Film Society: ‘Last Tango in Paris’

This Thursday 15th March Magic Lantern Film Society will be marking the start of a special season of films that were either banned or heavily censored since they were made. The season starts with the 70’s classic Last Tango in Paris starring Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider. The film starts at 7.30pm at the Nerve Centre in Magazine Street, Derry and admission is £4.

 

Last Tango in Paris, the film that took the world by storm with its strategy of sexual frankness and a towering performance by Marlon Brando. A man, whose wife committed suicide, moves toParisin the grip of an irresistible melancholy. A chance encounter with a young middle-class girl and their instant chemistry and explosive sexual connection will change both their lives. The film was banned or cut throughout the entire world, considered as ‘self-serving pornography’ and ‘obscene’; in Italy Bertolucci was served with a four month suspended sentence in prison and had his civil rights revoked for five years. The film is a torrid masterpiece about love and grief not to be missed.

 

Magic Lantern would also invite you to take advantage of two new membership schemes. For £25 members can get into all the films for free, including special screenings, for £70 members can take out a family membership. This will allow not only them but also up to four members of their family into all the screenings. For further information you can visit Magic Lantern Film Society’s website at www.magiclanternderry.co.uk, pick up a programme at the Nerve centre, as well as a selection of other key venue’s around the town.

 

You can also visit our facebook page and become or friend, or follow us on twitter # MagicLanternFS. This is one of a number of special seasons, which Magic Lantern have specialised in over a number of years and we look forward to seeing you there

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