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A sprawling two-hour forty-five minute documentary about screen legend Marlon Brando, features never-before-seen footage and a series of original, in-depth interviews from a wide variety of Hollywood figures and family members. Included are classic film clips from many of his films including "A Streetcar Named Desire (1951);" "Viva Zapata!" (1952); "Julius Caesar" (1953); "The Wild One" (1953); "On the Waterfront" (1954); "Guys and Dolls" (1955); "The Teahouse of the August Moon" (1956); "Sayonara" (1957); "The Young Lions" (1958); "Mutiny on the Bounty" (1962); "The Chase" (1966); "Reflections in a Golden Eye" (1967); "The Godfather" (1972); "Last Tango in Paris" (1973); "The Missouri Breaks" (1976); "Superman" (1978); "Apocalypse Now" (1979); "A Dry White Season" (1989); "The Freshman" (1990) and "Don Juan Demarco" (1995). Among the many peers, family members and friends making appearances include Ellen Adler, Ed Begley, Andrew Bergman, Bernardo Bertolucci, James Caan, Johnny Depp, ... Written by
"Brando" is a two-part documentary about one of our greatest screen actors, considered by many to be the greatest, Marlon Brando. I saw it all at once, which may have been a mistake because, interesting as it is, it seemed overly long to me.
The documentary attempts to cover everything - Brando's childhood, stage work, his breakthrough success in "Streetcar," subsequent film work, private life and political beliefs, his becoming box office poison, and his resurrection as a great character actor beginning with "The Godfather." Ultimately, "Brando" leaves one feeling sad for what his private life became and when all is said and done, what went on behind that glorious facade remains a mystery. He obviously had passionate political beliefs and a true desire to help the blacks and the Indians, and he did so; at a certain point, his commitment to these causes, and his feeling for Tahiti, took over his life and superseded his desire to act.
One can't help admire Brando and feel frustrated at the same time. His gifts went into the realm of genius, but he was basically lazy and over time became lazier. Though the documentary doesn't cover it, he hated doing theater night after night, which is why he never returned to it. Eventually film became a drag for him too. He said he hated acting; it was probably a painful process for him, but at the beginning, he must have at least liked it and found it cathartic. Later on, it's apparent he did it for the money, becoming increasingly difficult to work with and prone to playing mind games with directors and actors. Some of that was probably out of boredom. He had a quick mind and an attention span that grew shorter over time.
There are some wonderful film clips, but I missed the monologue from "Superman," which he did brilliantly in one take. There are also reminders through photos of his godlike looks and an interesting screen test for "Rebel Without a Cause."
The best thing about "Brando" for me were the interviews with former classmates, Angie Dickinson and Mai Britt, who worked with him, and Carmelita Pope and Ellen Adler who knew him in the early days. An interview with the personable John Turturro provided lively commentary throughout, and there were also interviews with John Travolta, Karl Malden, Jane Fonda, Martin Scorcese, Martin Landau, Cloris Leachman, Robert Englund and others.
Though in the end he's still an enigma, one will certainly get a glimpse of this unusual man and phenomenal actor in this thorough documentary.
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