Editor’s note: On January 29, Ran and co-producer Aaron Hartley presented “Brando Noir” at the New England Conservatory in Boston. Students and faculty of NEC’s Contemporary Improvisation department performed along with clips from Brando’s films. Below are Ran’s notes for the evening.
I have not chosen some of the great Brando films such as “Streetcar Named Desire,” “Godfather,” and “Last Tango in Paris.” “Streetcar” in particular has such fantastic dialogue, and it was hard to imagine how great music could replace this.
Perhaps the best known of the four films that we’re showing is “The Wild One,” which was a cult classic in the 1970s and 1980s and often appeared at midnight shows on the East Coast. Unfortunately it is a tad dated now. Director Stanley Kramer regrettably offers a lecture to the audience in the film’s next to last scene.
The film is striking and we’re thrilled that Ken Schaphorst, the director of the Conservatory Jazz Department, will bring his full orchestra to depict the hoods in this West Coast town who are violent, jive, and guzzle quantities of brew.
The real highlight of the film besides Brando’s performance is the score by Leith Stevens. “Windswept” is the favorite of Ken’s.
“The Young Lions” is a somewhat quieter film and may be Brando’s most sympathetic role of the evening. If there ever could be a kind Nazi it would be Brando’s character. His charm with women, his camaraderie with men, and his nobility to the unfortunate is commendable but the audience will have to deal with his complete naivety about the atrocities committed by Hitler. His world was of chivalry and not concentration camp supervision.
Our third film, “Appaloosa,” shows Marlon in the deep Southwest. It’s not nearly as great a film as “Burn” and particularly not “Viva Zapata!” but the film has visual action, beautiful horses, and deadly cobras.
“Night of the Following Day” is a kidnap fable which can be rather gruesome. This takes place in the outskirts of Paris. There is the countryside, dark houses, shadow-lit bistros, and a vulnerable young woman who is being kept as a virtual prisoner. Brando’s performance is slick but I feel there are deeper dimensions.