Fancy a trip inside the head of Marlon Brando? This ghostly doc, recalling the late actor’s life and work, starts with an eerie computer animation of his face. It was digitised by a VFX guru in the 1980s, allowing the ‘On the Waterfront’ actor to come back to life here for one last performance amid this film’s rush of old movie snippets and archive clips. Director Stevan Riley also had access to hours of audiotapes the actor recorded towards the end of his life, which essentially allows Brando to narrate his own biography.
The wisdom of age gives familiar accounts of making ‘The Godfather’ and ‘Last Tango in Paris’ a dark, psychologically intriguing edge. ‘You’ve got to be your own analyst,’ a whispery, ageing Brando muses. The man who emerged as a robust but sensitive star in the 1950s is surprisingly frank and introspective, perhaps as a result of the late-life family tragedies with which Riley bookends his film. At first you wonder if Riley’s focus on the fallout of his son Christian Brando’s 1990s manslaughter conviction is a sensationalist move. But then you realise how much these events shaped the mind of the maudlin, regretful Brando we hear.
It’s not all doom, gloom and family disasters; the film also makes lucid insights into the links between the man and his movies. ‘I hate that part,’ Brando says of Stanley in ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’. ‘Haven’t you gotten any pride left?’ he inquires of himself, musing on his 1960s career slump. As movie docs go, one word does it. Stellar!