Marlon Brando at the PFA (and the SFIFF)

Monday night I decided to attend the San Francisco International Film Festival without crossing the Bay to San Francisco. So I caught Listen to Me Marlon at the Pacific Film Archive.

I’ve seen a lot of documentaries about movie stars. But I’ve never before seen one quite like this. Brando recorded his thoughts and feelings into tape recorders over the course of his life, and director Stevan Riley used these recordings in place of the usual voice-of-God narration. You won’t get as many facts in Listen to Me Marlon as you would in a conventional documentary, but you’ll get a far stronger sense of exactly who he was.

I give this film an A.


After the film, Riley came up to the podium for Q&A with the audience. Some highlights:

  • The first question was actually an opinion, and a minority one: “For me the whole film was spoiled by the music. It was in your face the whole time and it was lousy music. I disliked every minute of it.” Riley responded very well: “That’s very kind of you to say…I’m surprised you’re still here.”
  • About Brando’s famous rewriting of his Apocalypse Now dialog: “There was a stack of tapes, several hours worth, where he was improvising in the role of Kurtz…he was looking into himself for the nature of good and evil.”
  • About clearing rights for film and TV clips: “That was a bit tricky…there was a big debate at the end about whether the budget could afford it…it was a real coup on the part of the producers, they started with Paramount for The Godfather. We got a real favorable deal on that.”

You have one more chance at the festival to see Listen to Me Marlon. It screens at the Kabuki this Wednesday at 8:30.