|Beast of Burden|
I recall the very first time I witnessed the ferocity of Marlon Brando. Flipping through the channels I happened across "A Streetcar Named Desire" and was confronted with an on the verge of berserker rage Brando swiping a dinner plate from the table and violently mumbling, "Now that's how I clear the table!" I was struck by a black and white film featuring a performer so blunt and honest and not hindered with the see through banal bullshit of the Shakespearean hoity toitiness of the usual pre 1960 celluloid offerings. This fucker was an animal. He screamed, sweated, bled and bore his way through that film with all of the persistence of a diamond tip drill. I became transfixed. Eagerly swallowing up any and everything Brando.
Through my education it became apparent that his resume was littered with more throw away, wasteful dog shit than through the roof, over and beyond lighting shots of genius. It was however the genius that prevailed and even his bad movies were worth watching as he would often inject his performances with such jaw dropping weirdness that even the bad and the weird molded the legend as much as the genius. "The Island of Dr. Moreau" was so universally reviled that I loved every frame and saw the movie by myself in a theater three times in a row. Brando's lack of solid career judgment had apparently virused itself in to my day to day life as looking back on it there is no way in hell that I would try and pull that feat again. It was purely him though that drew me back into that theater and made me waste $21.00 solid dollars watching Brando and Val Kilmer make a mockery of what they must have known was a total dog.
I checked Brando's autobiography out of the library nearly ten years ago and have yet to return it. Listening to the man himself babble on about the environment and his family gave me an insight that became very much ingrained into my consciousness and I would ramble on to anyone who was sick of listening that the book had become my bible. His appearance on Larry King was such an incredibly grotesque display of not giving a shit that the viewing of the tape became a reason for celebration. Just to watch the utterly confused look on Larry Kings face while Brando would answer his questions with answers to other questions was and remains, on that battered videotape, priceless. It was the acting thought that made Brando relevant and without it he could have just been Gary Busey on a truckload of valium. Streetcar, On the Waterfront, Viva Zapata, Last Tango in Paris and The Godfather are all on a shelf so high that every once in awhile a new younger buck tries in vain to grab one for his own collection. There are "the new Brandos" coming along every two weeks but no one can capture that insanely brilliant mixture. Benicio del Toro may be close but I have yet to see him mumbling about ecologically bred cookies in his bare feet to Larry King. Brando was one of my heroes and like most of my heroes he died. He did not like most of them flame out before he had the chance to create a kingdom of material that will exist forever.