I met briefly with Listen To Me Marlon director Stevan Riley during last January’s Sundance Film Festival, and then we sat down again a week or so ago in the outdoor lobby of the now-shuttered Aidikoff Screening Room. It wasn’t that great of an interview but here’s the mp3. I really enjoyed and admired Riley’s film — an intimate, full-scope portrait that turns rather sad during the final 20 minutes. Fascinating, never-before-seen footage. Everyone should see it, if not theatrically then at least when it hits Showtime.
I’d read Marlon Brando‘s autobiography (“Songs My Mother Taught Me“) but until I saw Riley‘s doc I’d never heard him really open up. His recollections and reflections almost shook my lifelong suspicion that he’d allowed defeatism and bitterness to consume him over the last 30 or so years of his life.
Never forget that Brando lived and screamed and wept and re-ordered the universe as people knew it in 1947 in New York City, and then rocked Hollywood in the early to mid ’50s, and left them both realms in a state of permanent shakedown and reexamination by the time of his effective departure from creative myth-making in late 1954 or early ’55….and then he shook things up again when he briefly re-emerged as The Man Who Knew and Owned Everything in the early ’70s.
But he was a bad (indifferent?) politician and a bit of a self-loather, and he let his hurt define too much of his life and image during his last 45 or 50 years, or roughly from ’55 on. The truth is that if you subtract the Godfather + Last Tango period of the early ’70s (what was that, two or two-and-a-half years?) Marlon Brando was in a state of radiant becoming for only nine years in his entire life, or between 1946, when he started to really fine and deploy his unique performing genius, and early ’55 when he won the Best Actor Oscar for On The Waterfront. It wasn’t that the other 71 years in his life were necessarily wasted, but they certainly seemed to be compromised or meandering or under-utilized.
Again, the mp3.