Empty5-6:30 p.m., 8-9:30 p.m., Tuesday, May 1 (Part 1)
5-6:30, 8-9:30 p.m., Wednesday, May 2 (Part 2)
There always is room for more Marlon Brando, particularly a documentary that dives head first into his psyche and comes up with original material and more than a new thought or two on the actor.
Leslie Greif (who exec produced "Steve McQueen: The Essence of Cool" for TCM), and writer Mimi Freedman have come up with a stylish docu, "Brando," that covers the familiar but also offers a pointed, disturbing take on why cinema's (and theater's) great actor behaved as he did, moved close to and then far away from his craft.
If the takes on Brando here aren't especially new, then at least they're shaped into a fascinating view that seems fresh and compelling.
"Brando" stays ordinary when it glosses over the career, stopping to look at what made Brando's style of acting so revolutionary (to use an overused phrase, as this docu sometimes does).
The oncamera interviews with Al Pacino, Martin Scorsese, John Turturro, John Travolta and the like wax on about Brando's impact on them as actors, for example. We've seen this kind of thing time and again and it's the snooziest part of the docu.
But when Pacino gets going on how Brando improvised on the set of "The Godfather," how he came up with original material for the character of Don Corleone -- material and characterization that emanated from his own psychology -- then this kind of interview gets riveting.
There is something that doesn't always sit right as a cadre of Brando's good friends, such as Cloris Leachman and George England, spill the beans on Brando's weaknesses, even the difficulty of working with him. This is old news and has a hint of friends clearing the air now that Brando is gone and can't defend himself (as if he would in the first place).
Still, when Brando's longtime friend Ellen Adler (daughter of Brando's mentor, Stella Adler), who does her share of bean-spilling, gets a certain look in her eye, it's not hard to see the unique effect Brando had on some friends and colleagues. To say that Brando was (and still is) a force as an actor isn't saying much because we already know that. But Adler's saying that he was an element (like other elements on the Earth, on the planet), is closer to the truth. He was that large in spirit, as much as he would want to deny it.
Which leads to the sad yet truthful part of this docu, the awareness of how much psychic pain Brando was in for much of his life -- and this despite his sense of humor and urge to cut up now and again on and off the set. It seems he spent much of psychological and professional life wanting to obliterate himself as much as he could; he lived often in the land of reticence and denial.
"Brando" brings to light some sad facts of the man's interior life, and this is when and how the docu gets very, very good. The wonderfully intense and moody music is from Andrea Morricone.
The Greif Co. for Turner Classic Movies
Producer: Leslie Greif
Teleplay: Mimi Freedman
Producers: Mimi Freedman, Joanne Rubino
Editor: Bryan Richert
Music: Andrea Morricone
Executive producer for TCM: Tom Brown
Supervising producer for TCM: Melissa Roller
Consultant: David Thomson
Music consultant: Quincy Jones
Associate producer: Darroch Greer
Director of photography: Randy Krehbiel
Lighting consultant: Bill Butler