Listen To Me Marlon review: ‘A portrait of a restless ego’

Marlon Brando in 1951. Picture: Getty

Marlon Brando in 1951. Picture: Getty - Credit: Getty Images

For a supposed mumbler, Marlon Brando’s voice proves his most compelling weapon in this self-narrated biography, says Michael Joyce.

There’s no rest for the deceased these days. Before he died Robin Williams filed a deed restricting the use of his image for 25 years after his death. Marlon Brando left behind hundreds of hours of cassette-recorded reflections he made during his career, which have been carefully edited down to make this film; effectively a talking autobiography narrated from beyond the grave. The audio material is illustrated with home movies, library footage, movie clips and some new shots using Brando’s digitized head. Despite his much proclaimed hatred for fame and celebrity, I don’t think Marlon would object. Well, it’s better than advertising chocolate.

Sanctioned by the Brando estate, this is a straightforward, chronological telling of his life story, growing up with little education in Nebraska with two violent alcoholic parents, going to New York, joining the Actor’s Studio, becoming a star on Broadway and transferring his fame to the silver screen. The Brando story has been covered in numerous biographies, so there’s little new here; though it is notable that while the film pays enormous tribute to Stella Adler, it ignores Lee Strasberg.

Brando was the pioneer for a generation of young method actors and he was also the model for the actor as reluctant celebrity and dilettante political activist. This is a portrait of a restless ego and talent in search of mayhem and amusement; a man repelled by his own failings who reflected that back as a firm commitment to right the wrongs of others. What struck me most was that for all his reputation as a mumbler, this film where he is all voice reveals him to be a great orator. His voice was his most compelling weapon.

Rating: 3/5 stars


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