A look at Brando’s best ’70s films
Brando’s growing political consciousness is reflected in this anti-imperialist film, directed by Gillo Pontecorvo (”The Battle of Algiers”). Unlike most politically minded actors, who cast themselves as heroes in the fight for right, Brando often used his talent to try to understand the enemy: Here, he’s a British agent fomenting revolution in a Portuguese colony, only to unleash resentments that rage beyond his control.
The Godfather (1972)
The big comeback, part 1. With his cheeks stuffed and his voice reduced to a sandpaper whisper, Brando created a timeless image of patriarchal authority in Francis Ford Coppola’s adaptation of the Mario Puzo novel. The Corleones are both modern businessmen and feudal aristocrats, dispensing justice and pillaging the countryside from their suburban redoubt. Facing, for the first time, a younger generation of leading men, many of whom (Pacino in particular) he had profoundly influenced, Brando turns from Method to myth, with an Oscar-winning performance so calculatedly eccentric and full of inspired surprises that his character stands apart from all the others, as if he belonged to a different plane of existence.
Last Tango in Paris (1973)
The big comeback, part 2. Brando brilliantly draws on his own biography as Paul, a washed-up fighter and Parisian kept husband who dives into an anonymous, purely sexual affair with a young student (Maria Schneider). Though the film is less sexually explicit than his 1968 ”Candy,” Brando communicates a great sense of erotic abandon, which proves to be a mask for his character’s essential loneliness. Bernardo Bertolucci’s film may no longer look like the landmark in movie history Pauline Kael claimed it to be, but Brando’s is still a risky performance. ”Tango” won Brando a seventh Oscar nomination and sealed his reputation as the most daring performer of his generation.