November 5, 2015

Wounded animal

Marlon Brando rearranges the disordered ruins of his life into something closer to a redemptive shape in Listen to Me Marlon, with posthumous narration from beyond the grave assembled from Brando’s private audiotapes by writer, director and editor Stevan Riley. The idea of secret recordings in dark rooms might suggest Nixon, Kurtz or Jim Jones – or any other maniac or recluse – but the private Brando is a warmer, much more sympathetic, troubled figure: not so much paranoid as flawed, endlessly self-examining, wounded and deeply sensitive. And no matter how much Brando tried, none of us ever really get to escape scrutiny but at least Riley, acting for Brando Enterprises, finds something to salvage from a tragic and raw story of generational damage, violence, life-changing early success and wasted talent. The meaning of Brando’s life that Riley creates, in the end, is about the pleasure that acting brings to others – a suitably generous conclusion to a fascinating and constantly entertaining account.