Brando Unauthorized (2010)
One year after inflicting Polanski Unauthorized on an unsuspecting public, Damian Chapa returns with his latest opus Brando Unauthorized. Once again assuming the roles of writer, director, producer and star, this biopic is significantly better than its predecessor. True, extreme close-ups remain a problem, hair and make-up could be improved and some interior scenes look like they were filmed in a broom-closet, but all in all a vast improvement. It’s still pretty dreadful though.
In a deft touch, Chapa makes Christian Brando the film’s narrator, regaling fellow drug-users with stories about his famous father. Not only does this provide an immediate juxtaposition between Marlon’s career successes with his personal failures, it also allows the narrative to be interrupted during its many digressions, a Godfather-quoting grandmother being but one example. Filmed in black and white, these flashback sequences feature Chapa portraying Marlon from his days as a sex symbol to his bloated demise. Yet despite repeatedly being warned about his eating habits, the actor retains the same pudgy appearance throughout, only donning an unconvincing fatsuit at the very end. To be fair Chapa does manage a passable imitation, though sometimes it’s a mystery exactly who he is impersonating.
Where this biopic is most successful is in its portrayal of Brando’s dysfunctional family life. Despite the scenes being populated by actors ill-equipped to meet the adlibbing demands of a threadbare script, their haphazardness reflects the inattentive domesticity being depicted. Elsewhere such laxity is glaringly obvious, particularly when Chapa parades around in a series of costumes to illustrate Brando’s movie roles.
On the rare occasion, Brando Unauthorized rises above its self-imposed mire, providing such gems as “Like most people undergoing depression and a career low-point, my Dad retreated to his chain of private islands in Tahiti”. Unfortunately, the film’s pervasive ineptitude make it uncertain if this line was intentionally humorous.
Christian Brando was not kidnapped from his house by hippies and later rescued from the back of a van. He was in fact kidnapped from school by his mother, handed over to hippies to hide and later found in a tent.
Only scene recreation is from A Streetcar Named Desire in the guise of a screen test. Biopic does however feature Chapa in a series of costumes behind the scenes of The Men, Viva Zapata!, Julius Caesar, The Wild One, On the Waterfront, The Young Lions, Mutiny on the Bounty, The Godfather, Don Juan DeMarco and The Island of Dr. Moreau. Apocalypse Now and Roots: The Next Generations also feature in hallucinations.