“Acting is surviving” – Marlon Brando
If you’re an actor or just a casual fan of film, one thing you have to admit is that Marlon Brando was the catalyst for modern day acting in film. He was a huge disciple of Stella Adler and The Method and when he brought that technique to his early film work, it changed everything. No one had ever seen anything like him on screen before and he was a revelation.
In fact, he was so believable as Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire that people actually thought he was his character, they thought he was a vicious drunk who would “spit on the floor” and fight with his wife. It’s some of these moments that are on display in the Stevan Riley’s excellent new documentary, Listen To Me Marlon.
Throughout his life, Brando recorded hundreds of hours of audiotapes that had never been made public until now. Riley has sifted through these tapes and created a documentary that is almost an autobiography. Told in his own voice, Brando guides us though his childhood to his early days as a young actor in New York City, working on Broadway to having to audition for The Godfather and it’s all in his own voice.
It’s truly fascinating.
He tells of the times he would sit in a New York City cigar shop and watch people for 30 seconds and then try and analyze their personality. Or how Stella Adler was so loving towards him and made him feel like he had a home at The New School. There’s an extended segment on Method Acting where’s he’s talking about his deep love and passion for it and it’s truly inspiring. I even went back to watch that section just to listen to it again.
As he gets older, we can see the more eccentric side of his personality emerging. He talks about auditioning for The Godfather and how he taped his lines to the other actors faces because he had other things to do besides learning lines.
The film ends with the tragedies of his son killing his daughter’s boyfriend and his daughter eventual suicide. At this point, Brando is a shell of what he once was. In the time of the film, we’ve seen him age and change and it’s something to marvel at.
‘Listen To Me Marlon’ is in theaters this weekend. Click here to find a theater.