Indeed, the man who’s widely considered to be the greatest actor of all time is the latest celebrity to receive the hologram treatment, but not in a similarly gimmicky way. Decades before he died in 2004, Brando tried to get a jump on the future by having his head and face digitized, and that hologram Brando cranium is at the center of Listen to Me Marlon, a haunting and brilliant new documentary from British director Stevan Riley. Through the cooperation of Brando’s estate, Riley acquired boxes’ worth of the late actor’s private journal-like recordings, and he puts those audio files beneath the digital head to allow Brando to narrate his own life story.
The cumulative effect is, simply put, incredible. Not unlike the heart-ripping Amy Winehouse doc Amy, Listen to Me Marlon paints a sprawling yet largely sad and unforgettable portrait of a lost icon. That aforementioned digital Brando only appears on screen a few times, but its voice is omnipresent, guiding viewers through a life-spanning journey that’s illustrated by home videos, archival photos, press clips and scenes from Brando’s many films.
Remorse is the predominant feeling throughout Listen to Me Marlon. Riley opens the film with footage from Brando’s Beverly Hills Compound in 1990, where his son Christian murdered his half-sister Cheyenne’s boyfriend. That event’s tragic qualities hover over the film even as you watch Brando turn into a megastar, romance countless beautiful women, use his power to help the civil rights and black power movements and generally sit on top of the world.
Listen to Me Marlon amazingly demonstrates how, for some celebrities, being famous is more curse than gift. The fact that the words are coming directly from the God of All Actors’ mouth gives that message incomparable weight.
Where to see it: Film Forum, Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 12:30 p.m., 2:50 p.m., 5:10 p.m., 7:30 p.m., 10:00 p.m.
Earlier this week, the New York Times debuted a clip from Listen to Me Marlon that shows the hologram Marlon. Check it out here.
Here's a clip that Deadline debuted back in January, timed with the film's world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival: