Saturday, 12 December 2015


Stevan Riley engages in a particularly incisive piece of solipsism - somebody else's solipsism - in Listen to Me Marlon. If Marlon Brando as Marlon Brando saw him was all that existed of Marlon Brando, this film could qualify as the definitive portrait of the actor. It's subjective though not straightforward, perceptive on Riley's part in its understanding of the fogginess of memory and the scattiness of thought. We know what Brando thought of himself, or what he thought he thought of himself, and know too that he actually knew very little - Listen to Me Marlon is as notable for its insight as it is for its ignorance, necessarily omitting many of the more unflattering aspects of this troubled man's character. The media - and, indeed, this film - haven't been easy on him, though Riley's slight submissiveness in truly, fully analysing his subject makes for a documentary that does feel like it's missing something... objectivity. To taint this pinpointed portrait with outside influences might be a betrayal of its purpose, but the film never shakes the sense that this subject's subjectivity is inadequate basis for the construction of an entire feature film. And yet what insights he does provide, and what skill Stevan Riley has displayed in editing and assembling them! There are middle-brow artistic flourishes, like a heavy-handed soundtrack courtesy of Max Richter, that are effective in a simplistic manner; Riley achieves considerably more with tonal accuracy himself, arranging Brando's poignant audio monologues with grace and sympathy. Listen to Me Marlon's directness is both its intellectual downfall and its emotional triumph.