Monday, April 13, 2015

Currently Watching: "Listen to Me Marlon"

I love movies, but I'm uncomfortable with talking about them. That's because, more often than not, I've gotten caught in the black hole of conversations that concern films I've never seen before. I would sit there silently as friends have a loud, passionate discussion about a current film they had seen recently, thinking to myself "Oh my God, I think I'm 127 years old." Every once in a while, I would blink or smile softly to indicate to the others around me that yes, I am indeed still alive and awake and in tune with my surroundings.

As a classic film fan, not only is it hard to find many people that share my love and interest in these films, but the opportunity to get to see them in a movie theater does not come around often. So when I got to see the documentary Listen to Me Marlon at a theater with my best friend and fellow blogger Elizabeth, it was a memorable experience.

Listen to Me Marlon is different because it was Brando talking about Brando set against film clips and photos of Brando. There were absolutely no second or third opinions present here. Documentary filmmaker Stevan Riley was granted access to over 200 hours of recordings that Brando made for himself. The topics Brando discussed ranged from his childhood and his career to his thoughts on life, and even to self-hypnosis. The title of the documentary takes its name from a self-hypnosis session that was played a few times throughout: "Listen to me Marlon. … This is one part of yourself speaking to another part of yourself. Listen to the sound of my voice and trust me."

I'll always listen to you, Marlon.
Brando had hoped to turn this mass of audio tapes into an autobiographical film before his death in 2004, so it was great to see that his dream came true 11 years later. Brando himself is a fascinating and enigmatic figure; there's never a dull moment in the documentary. There are moments in which you're crying with laughter because the things he said sometimes were unintentionally hilarious ("I had a great desire to spread my seed far and wide"-Marlon Brando on his youth). There were other times in which you're crying out of sadness because despite his celebrity, Brando had been through hell and back at some points of his life (like the suicide of his daughter and the murder trial of his son).

But the best thing about Listen to Me Marlon was that Brando was brutally honest with himself. We all lie to ourselves in order to hide from some scary truths, but Brando wasn't afraid to tear through all that bullshit and get to the heart of the matter. He wasn't afraid to brag, he wasn't afraid to berate himself, and he wasn't afraid to be confused about the big things that concerned him. He knew he was human and imperfect and he embraced it fully. He didn't pretend to be anything that he wasn't. In an age in which people go to great lengths to present themselves as cool, fun, smart, and beautiful 24/7, I found myself so thankful for Brando's realness. It takes a special kind of courage to judge yourself instead of judging others, and Brando definitely had it.

There were also a few moments in which I felt that I definitely connected with Brando. Brando's biggest goal was to reach inner peace, and I think that's a goal everyone has. After filming Mutiny on the Bounty, Brando was enamored with Tahiti and it became an island escape for him, for a little while anyway. I don't like being in the same place for too long, and I often wish I had the money to go far away and find my own island paradise. I was watching the documentary like "I get you, Marlon," and let's be honest, there just aren't many famous people I can say that about.

On a side note, can I just did he even make over 200 hours of recordings of his own voice? Hearing the sound of my own voice gives me heartburn. Leaving a voicemail is an experience that will leave me bedridden for a week. But this man just adored the sound of his voice. Now THAT'S what I call confidence.

All in all, Listen to Me Marlon felt like having a meaningful conversation with a good friend. I left the movie theater in buoyant spirits for no reason at all. Thanks, Marlon, for keeping it real.

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