Best of the Day: Listen to Me Marlon Opens – August 14, 2015
Welcome to Best of the Day, our daily recommendation for what to check out around town. If you do one thing in Boston today, consider this.
Marlon Brando is considered one of the finest Method actors ever produced—by everyone, it seems, but Brando himself. In his lifetime, he bridled at the suggestion, insisting that the public had misunderstood his relationship to Strasberg’s teachings of The Method. In Brando: Songs My Mother Taught Me, Brando wrote: “After I had some success, Lee Strasberg tried to take credit for teaching me how to act. He never taught me anything. He would have claimed credit for the sun and the moon if he believed he could get away with it.”
Being misunderstood was something that Brando surely learned from an early age, growing up the lonely son of alcoholic parents, with an absent mother and a father who was fond of reminding his son that he’d never amount to anything. After the incandescent success of his youth, as he became bloated and isolated and his career slid into critical ignominy, his legend was increasingly eclipsed by his eccentricity, by the implicit idea that he could’ve been a contender, but he’d ended up a bum.
But what does Brando have to say about it?
The man can’t speak for himself, exactly, as he’s been gone since 2004. But he left us his words. Filmmaker Stevan Riley’s Listen to Me Marlon—cobbled together from hundreds of hours of audiotapes Marlon made for himself throughout the decades, combined with home movies and interview footage—forms a film that’s as much a tone poem as it is a documentary, and has been hailed by David Edelstein as “the greatest, most searching documentary of an actor ever put on film.” Set against clips from such Brando films as A Streetcar Named Desire, On The Waterfront, The Godfather, and Last Tango In Paris, we hear his thoughts on such subjects as his work, his rough childhood, and the tragic lives of his own children (his daughter Cheyenne committed suicide at age 25).
“In the end,” Edelstein says, “he understood the tragedy of his life, and Riley’s film is the worthiest epitaph imaginable.”