Is Kane the greatest movie ever made? For most of the past 70 years that has been the consensus, although more recently it has been supplanted in critical favour by Vertigo. Is Welles’ reputation in eclipse then? Does his first and most accomplished Hollywood movie withstand the test of time? A distinguished panel has agreed to share their responses to this complex, challenging and invigorating movie.
Welles and Joseph Cotten penned the screenplay (adapted from an Eric Ambler spy story), and while the Great Man didn’t take a directing credit - bowing to his friend and collaborator Norman Foster - the expressionist noir stylings are very much in line with what you would expect from the man who made The Lady from Shanghai, Mr Arkadin, and Touch of Evil. Almost inevitably, the film was butchered in post production, first by RKO (who cut out 20 minutes) and then by the censors. All the same it’s enormous fun, a B movie thriller with sly wit, invention and panache to spare.
1942 was the year everything went wrong for Orson Welles. He couldn’t fight for The Magnificent Ambersons because he was in Brazil at the behest of Nelson Rockefeller, working on a pan-American propaganda piece, an anthology film mixing documentary and fiction to be called "It’s All True". That film was never finished, and Welles’ Hollywood career never recovered - but Bill Krohn’s reconstruction explains why it was such an important project, and recovers more footage than anyone could have imagined.
With Orson Welles, there is always the nagging feeling of "what might have been?". Schubert left us just the one Unfinished Symphony. But Schubert only need pen and ink to compose, a filmmaker needs so much more - and Welles left us with myriad incomplete films and projects, including several more stabs at Shakespeare, his long quest to make a movie of Don Quixote, and his film about the "new Hollywood", The Other Side of the Wind. What we are left with are tantalizing fragments, shards of brilliance…
All magicians are actors, but not all actors can make magic. Orson Welles could: he’d dazzle us with his bag of tricks, defy gravity, mesmerize moviegoers, and reveal the human soul. He was a master illusionist, but also a sooth-sayer, one of those rare child prodigies who became an adult virtuoso, a showman and a genius. century from his birth in May 1915, this documentary runs through a glittering and troubled career, and celebrates an artist whom we’re still struggling to get the measure of,some three decades since his passing.
“A bouquet to cinematic history.” Dennis Harvey, Variety
"Fascinating… leaves you hungry for more." Chris Nashawaty, Entertainment Weekly