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The Rebels: Marlon Brando (1981)

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A documentary covering the life and career of actor Marlon Brando.

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A documentary covering the life and career of actor Marlon Brando.

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1981 (USA)  »

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Mostly a sampling of mixed interviews
11 February 2007 | by (Norway) – See all my reviews

Surprisingly, this is one of only two or three documentaries covering the life and career of acting genius Marlon Brando. In the 1980's, Italian director Claudio Masenza made THE REBELS: MARLON BRANDO along with similar films about Montgomery Clift and James Dean. As far as I can see, none of them saw any further release than single video tapes, which, when taking the technical aspects into consideration, is understandable.

I've yet to see any other work from Masenza's hand, but from what I've seen I won't deny that he isn't an undisputed documentary-maker. This film is purely based on interviews. Some of them are interesting, others aren't. Jocelyn Brando (Marlon's sister) talks a little about her brother and their parents, although she prefers to avoid the tragedies that largely surrounded the children's lives; Glenn Ford talks about his relationship to Marlon during the filming of TEAHOUSE OF THE AUGUST MOON in 1956; Bernardo Bertolucci recounts his memories from the filming of LAST TANGO IN Paris, a film in which Brando arguably delivered his most stunning performance throughout his career. The film also has some rarely-seen footage; home-movies of Marlon and Clift fooling around, excerpts from Littlefeather's speech when denying Brando's Academy Award for THE GODFATHER, and Marlon and Jocelyn celebrating Christmas together.

Although I find it somewhat odd that Brando's sister agreed to do an interview concerning her brother inasmuch as he hated that friends and relatives talked about him in public, these interviews are all fine with me and include interesting statements. What makes this documentary such a mild contribution is the fact that it has no narration voice or presentations of the movies discussed; Masenza expects his viewers to remember Brando's movies in chronological order. I also had to chuckle when Bob Thomas appeared on the screen; Brando once considered Thomas --a famous reporter-- a sincere, honest friend who wouldn't publish anything about him without the actor's permission. However, it eventually turned out that Marlon was deadly wrong; all the while, Thomas had taken notes of things Brando had said and, finally, he wrote a book about him, which floored the actor completely. In this film, however, Thomas talks about Brando as if he was a close friend who knew him better than anyone. I got pretty provoked.

All in all, THE REBELS: MARLON BRANDO, which still is available on video, is worth seeing if you're a die-hard fan of the wonderful actor, but I'm certainly waiting for a more slickly made documentary to come.


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