Listen to Me Marlon Review

Writer, director and editor Stevan Riley (Blue Blood, Fire In Babylon) and producer John Battsek (Searching For Sugar Man) provided our inner stalker with a peer into the audio journals of one of the most radical actors of our time, Marlon Brando. Listen to Me Marlon gets its name from one of the self-hypnosis sessions Brando recorded back in 1996.

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. You know I have your interests at heart. … Just relax, relax, relax. I’m going to help you change in a way that will make you feel happier, more useful. … I want you to accept what I say as true. What I tell you here and now is true.”

With never before seen video, photographs and audio and digital 3D renderings based on facial scans Brando made with VFX pro Scott Billups in the 1980s, this is by far the most intimate look inside Brando’s headspace. We can’t help but witness this with caution in order not to offend him.

If there's anything unsettling to the stomach, it's watching actors on television talk about their personal lives,” said Brando, and I’m sure he’d completely agree if given the chance to critique this very personal culmination of work. He comes at us beyond his ashes in streamlined sequences of meditation tapes and what I’ve dubbed a severe case of manic depression.

We follow his disruptive childhood, the twisted relationship with his parents and himself, his relationship with Stella Adler, his refusal to become a drunk (using food instead), his work as a civil rights activist, his volatile sexuality, the turmoil with his troubled children and his love/hate relationship with his career.

It’s hard not to feel for the man as the movie unfolds. Personally, I saw a man eager to find himself, eager to change the world he lived in, eager to heal the inner child that was destroyed decades behind him, a man eager to right his wrongs.

We like to romanticize the famous; they’re like zoo animals we can’t touch. In this huddled peephole of a film, we feel vulnerable and tiny, cemented in his sadness and his triumphs, aware of our own deficiencies and similar penchants.

The most powerful scenes are the ones shot in Tetiaroa during sunset. Marlon walking barefoot, beach-worn and smiling, while his long-ago voice utters brilliant advice he never took. It’s easy to see how his inability to keep his dick in his pants in his youth was a wanton need to give children to the world. To give them the love, understanding and forgiveness he never got. 

Marlon was the atypical pensive intuitive with a charming disposition. He was a keen observer and an undeniable clown. He knew he had to leap into the black hole he tried so hard to misplace; he knew the necessity of doing such things. The hundreds of hours of documentation in these tapes throughout his career are a sure sign.

The movie begins as it ends, with a sense of calmness, a sense of serenity and childhood, as if Brando is lulling us to sleep next to him. Dozily I say, goodnight.


Ingrid Calderon is a writer, poet and pug enthusiast. Her work has been featured on Suite101, Electric Cereal, ZO Magazine, Beast Grrl Zine, the earthbound review, FORTH Magazine , Shoe Music Press and the Poems to F*ck To Anthology. Her first full-length poetry collaboration, Things Outside, is available on Lulu.com. In addition to doting on her lover, she enjoys cooking, lifting heavy things and cracking her bones.