Tuesday, March 24, 2015

"Meet Marlon Brando"

I just watched the full 27-minute film from 1964 by the Maysles on TCM last night. Brando came off like a charming dick rather than some sort of "media-savvy guru."

The "official" take, both in the clip below and in TCM's introduction, seems to be that Brando was showing a "savvy understanding of the mass-media machine." But... please. Said "machine" linking show business and media had been around for nearly 40 years since the silent-movie days and the accompanying fan magazines, when stars had been revealing their so-called REAL personalities to reporters. This '64 short film reveals nothing other than Brando's ongoing playing of a game that had been going on long before he ever reached Hollywood.

The voiceover intones of Brando: "You see him pushing the boundaries of the junket format." Really? I see a charismatic celebrity trying to push around reporters, who, to their professional credit, don't seem at all disturbed. For instance, Brando, while being asked a question by a male reporter, comments (apropos of nothing) on how long the reporter's fingernails are. Brando's obviously trying to be a jerk, trying to throw the reporter off by implying what? The reporter's response: He plays classical guitar and so it's necessary to have nails on the right hand that are long. Take that, Mr. Celebrity!

Same with the female reporters: Brando singles out two that are especially pretty and starts going on about their physical characteristics: One, a former Miss USA, he feels talks out of the side of her mouth (which he condescendingly finds "idiosyncratic but charming") and wears her hair falling down over one eye--why does she do that? This young woman resolutely pushes her hair back and reminds him of "subjective opinions." When Brando goes on about "You're one of the prettiest interviewers I've ever seen," the 22-year-old responds, unflustered: "Thank you. You're one of the most gracious hosts I've ever met."

The voiceover for this clip sanctimoniously intones, "The one moment when Brando seems most genuinely engaged is when he spots a beautiful woman on the street and interviews her on civil rights issues..." We then see a perfectly made up and dressed young black woman who just happens (!) to be walking by. Brando's "profound interview" consists of him asking her if the government is doing enough for race relations. "No, it's not," is the answer. 

Wow, you're deep, Mr. Brando.


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