BluRay/DVD Reviews


By • Nov 2nd, 1999 •

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On the DVD we can see lots of green in the art department’s palette, which goes well with the pinks in Marlon Brando’s fleshy, overflowing face, and the orange in his mustache and hair. In fact the whole color scheme of the film forms a duet with him. His uses of his massive frame are compelling, too – he understands his freak value, and rivets our attention, practically just by being there. And his voice is sharp and deft, unlike recent films such as Don Juan de Marco, in which his slurring seemed a telltale sign of both old age and incapacitating obesity. Here his costume is actually padded to boot…talk about excess!

The amount of guest appearances makes it clear that everyone was appealing to everyone else to join in, and the atmosphere must have been light and entertaining on the set. But alas, it doesn’t roll over into the viewing experience. The director, Yves Simenon (Memphis, Dead Man’s Walk) is careless in his handling of the cast and seldom brings out the best and funniest in them. The editing is such that narrative elements are left unexplained. Mark Isham’s score ranges from fun to too easy. The disc, however, looks real good. In Brando’s bio notes, a three-page list of his films fails to include The Island of Dr. Moreau. (That’s the actor at his most bodily deprecatory, and it also has weird personal resonances of the tragic incidents in Brando’s life. For those reasons, it’s actually an important one for his fans and for those who want his more meaningful works.)

On the commentary track, Simenon and Writer/Executive Producer Joseph Brutsman explain how Brando created his own look – the bald head and fringe of red hair – and that he did his own makeup each day while various assistants sat around and chatted with him. Simenon bemoans the tightness of the final cut (and he’s so right — it robs the film of any odd truth it may have had), and singles out the ‘Bible scene’ about twenty minutes in, saying it was originally eleven minutes long and would have gotten them an NC17. But then, he muses, since it became clear during post production that the film wouldn’t have a major theatrical release, why not leave it longer? Brando apparently had been on the internet all that day researching biblical info. Great pity, because he’s the real joy in the movie, and more would have been much better. It would have made this a must to own, instead of a personal preference, even if the excised footage was included as a separate section.

Most of the material that I liked, I learned, was the result of Brando’s suggestions, demands and improvisations. Much as I believe the guy to be a self-loathing, painfully difficult and irrascible human being, I have to admit that he also has a good visual/narrative sense, and a film like Free Money exists as an entertainment purely and only because of his input and interferences. If you are thinking of going for it, be aware that you can read or print the screenplay, and access scenes directly from the screenplay via enhanced DVD ROM features. It’s in standard wide screen (1.85:1) and includes a photo gallery. There are a pair of non-actor twins playing Brando’s daughters, and one of them does nudity, though I don’t know which one she was. Charlie…uh, excuse me…Charles Sheen does some cute stuff along the way, and it’s nice to see Donald Sutherland pop up in a supporting role because it indicates that he and Brando remained friends after appearing together in The Dry White Season.

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