Meet Marlon Brando is a 25-minute documentary by Alfred and David Maysles. All it is, basically, is footage of Brando schmoozing with journalists at a press junket for Code Name: Morituri, a World War II thriller that costarred Brando and Yul Brynner. And it’s a very cool thing to simply watch Brando as he sidesteps the usual protocol, dumps on the film and charms the shit out of everyone.
Among other things he (a) studies his questioners like a bank officer, squinting his eyes and picking up everything they’re thinking but not saying while interviewing them about their quirks and backgrounds, (b) does whatever he can to avoid discussing the film, (c) jokes around a lot, (d) discusses the plight of American Indians, (e) flirts with each and every female, (f) speaks French and so on.
Pretty Female Journalist: “Just tell us about your new movie.” Brando: “Well….why?”
The generic impression of Brando is that of a guy who gave up, got fat, stopped caring, blew it big-time as a dad, hated acting and so on. But here, at least, all that self-hating stuff hasn’t taken him yet, and in fact doesn’t seem to have established a foothold. He seems like somebody you’d really like to hang and drink with. Sharp, self-deprecating, perceptive, whimsical.
“The idea was to let scores of television reporters meet the star in order to sell Morituri,” an IMDB poster writes. “Brando, however, had other plans. Declaring that he hates being ‘a hawker’ he turns the situation upside down, interviewing the interviewers, mocking the vacuousness of the set-up and flat-out refusing to promote Morituri.
“Don’t you have anything to say about the film?’ asks an exasperated journalist. Brando replies, ‘Bernie Wicky smokes the worst cigars I’ve ever known!’
“With a lesser personality, this might be perceived as the arrogant posturing of a spoiled movie star, but the mischievous twinkle in Brando’s eyes, combined with the fierce intelligence and wit of his answers, make it a joy to behold. The documentary does not get us any closer to Brando the actor, but it does offer an insightful glimpse into the mind of a man who was too smart to go with the flow, too independent to compromise and who, throughout his life, refused to play by the rules.”