Pick from dozens … hundreds … of actors and actresses and explore what’s it like to be that person. When you check out Marlon Brando, you can feel why there was a change in the magnetic force field that is still called Hollywood.
If Shakespeare were around today to write about movie stars the way he wrote five hundred years ago about royalty, surely he would have selected Marlon Brando. The examination might have been rendered in a film something like “Listen to Me Marlon.” This documentary parlays a digitized ghost of Marlon Brando with audiotapes Brando made of himself, along with home movies, headline news clips, and of course, snippets from iconic filmography.
It’s worth seeing “Listen to Me Marlon” just to experience its uniquely leveraged documentary style, but Marlon is the draw. He was a guy who had it rough from his loveless father and drunkard mother. He was a gorgeous specimen of the kind that parents don’t want their daughters to go near. He was complicated. He was sensitive. He was anti-authoritarian. He endured challenges that were thrust into the media glare. He was reclusive. He was a public activist for civil rights.
Brando was catapulted to a firmament of unreality shouting “Stella!” playing Stanley Kowalski in “A Streetcar Named Desire.” He eventually knew to say – and hate -- that being a star removes you from reality. He was assured immortality after he channeled truth playing Terry Malloy in “On the Waterfront.” Savvy and self-critical, Brando said that actors tell lies for a living.
His immortality shriveled for more than a decade until playing “The Godfather” raised him to more vaunted heights. Represented at the podium by an actress citing unjust treatment of Native Americans, he refused to accept his second Oscar.
From there, “what’s it like to be Marlon Brando” had less to do with making more movies, with seeking admiration and respect. He said that trying “to be admired and respected is a protection against helplessness and insignificance.” See “Listen to Me Marlon” for an intimate documentary look at that trap.