Cleaving Marlon Brando

Marlon Brando—
A Cleave Biography

“You’re the one-eyed jack
in this town, but I seen the
other side of your face…”
—Marlon Brando,
One-Eyed Jacks

One side—two sides
Three sides—maybe four
That’s how—cleaves work

Brando can be—serious like
Julius Caesar—On the Waterfront
Brando can be—really out there
Missouri Breaks—Apocalypse Now
Brando can be—freaky like
Reflections—in a Golden Eye
A Southern drag queen—in love

Brando can be—way out there
Dabbling with—dystopian terror
Morphing men—Island of Dr. Moreau
Brando can be—a parody of himself
Superman’s Dad—or Bounty’s Christian
The serious Brando—actor icon
Versus sloppy goofy—Godfather

Brando can cleave—either way
A one-eyed jack—going either way
But a cleave—isn’t just sideways
It can crawl—up & down vertically
That’s what happens—One Eyed Jacks
Rio takes the wrap—for bank robbery
Malden betrays him—lets him rot
Five years later—Rio gets even
But it’s a troubled—moody revenge
Like being betrayed—On the Waterfront
“You was my brother”—Brando says
To his mob lawyer—brother Steiger
“You shoulda—looked after me a little”
Filmed in the back—of a mob limousine
“A little” Brando says—Steiger looks away
Betrayal is complex—when trust fails
It’s not simply—linear and horizontal
Getting even is like—Kafka’s guilt
Like Proust’s anxiety—it waits
Five years—Brando picking maggots
Off his ankles—in a dirty Mexican jail
That’s a long time—to think it over

Malden ends up—in Monterrey
Respected sheriff—with a family
Brando goes for—his daughter
Louisa (Pina Pellicer)—loves him
Almost making up—for 5 lost years
“Surely a man—can’t stay angry?”
Brando asks himself—cleaving
Reversing himself—up one side
And down the other—cleaved by
Revenge and love—moody
Submerged in himself—doubled

A one-eyed—two-faced jack
Full of mid-scene—ennui plus
A sense of danger—screen presence
Trying to figure out—his motives
Not an old fashioned—black and white
Western—with Ben Johnson complaining
About the constant—Pacific crashing
Waves all the time—a weird modern
Western off the coast—with grief and
Unspoken rage—not Dodge City angst

Visibly hiding—his mixed emotions
Brando ready to explode—holding
Back playing it—the deck of cards
Calm and cool—like a cucumber
A poker game—that doesn’t end
Understated—the duality and dialog
Cleaving himself—his other side
Brando’s own version—of being
A one-eyed—calm stealthy Jack
One time bank robber—now lover
“I got reasons”—he says to Louisa

“You was my brother”—to Steiger
Incorrect grammar—resentful irony
A boxing career—sold to the Mob
A modern-day Western—redefining
How Hollywood—cleaves the hero
The same with—Streetcar Named Desire
Screaming “Stella!!!”—up at the balcony
Betraying himself—out of pure jealousy
Blanche DuBois—setting both of them up
Both Brando and Malden—getting screwed
Again—this time humid New Orleans
Cleaving again—man against man
Southern Decadence—versus Western
Hollywood so generous—with its genres
Scripting the story—3-way narratives…

The same with—Last Tango in Paris
Modern betrayal—more chic cosmopolitan
Bertolucci the Cineaste—zeroing in on
Maria Schneider—pouting undressing
“Vous êter américan?”—she asks
Brando betrayed again—disillusioned
Knowing what he wants—renewal
Perhaps even—not knowing it
But getting it anyway—all the same
The way a man—cleaves under pressure
Flaking like a diamond—like a Krell door
Brando doing Morbius—Forbidden Planet
Cleaved by all the—Monsters of the Id
Things going nova—is there escape?

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