Friday, 17 March 2017

Listen to Me Marlon
Dir: Stevan Riley
Stevan Riley's complex and confidential exploration of the infamous Marlon Brando is compiled entirely from private tapes the actor recorded at home, during business meetings, during hypnosis, in therapy and during press interviews before he died in 2004, with the permission of his estate. Brando's face was digitally recorded using pioneering technology back in the late 70s when he was filming Superman. They needed his likeness to film the ghostly floating head scenes in both Superman I and II that took place in the fortress of solitude. Director Riley uses this technology in recreating Marlon's image and pairs it with the audio, giving the ghostly illusion that the actor is somehow speaking from the grave. It is a fascinating concept and when interwoven with rare visuals from his career and personal archive, it makes for quite a compelling documentary. Of course it wouldn't be half as interesting, would it not for the fact that Brando had some pretty interesting things to say. There is something uniquely hypnotic about Riley's original approach, to have the deceased subject of a documentary almost explain their life from beyond the grave is surprisingly more compelling than it is eerie. I think the one thing that one has to remember and understand though is that this is Brando's life through the opinions of Brando himself, and although he is saying it, it doesn't necessarily make it so. It is a documentary but it is completely one sided and never once challenged, or another opinion (as it were) explored. In many respects it doesn't need to be challenged but for me I'm not sure it can really be a true documentary in the classic sense and you have to wonder about this sort of method going forward. It is true Brando's estate agreed to it but then, with wanting to sound insensitive, who of Brando's family is really left? The ones that are don't seem to want anything to do with him or even acknowledge him as a blood relative and dispute their relation to him. Whatever you think or believe about the actor, these are his words and his thoughts, whether they were ever intended to be heard is unclear, and probably forever will be, but here they are all the same. I agree strongly with a lot of what he says but I'm also a bit unsure whether I believe or like certain other things he says, either way it is fascinating and either way, you can't deny he was a complicated man. Whether or not you want to listen to him prattle on is up to you.

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