Orson Welles

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Drucker
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Re: Orson Welles

#201 Post by Drucker » Sat Jan 31, 2015 2:03 pm

Okay one last post.

Confidential Report is not only the worst version of Mr. Arkadin, but possibly the worst Welles film. It's clearly the result of editing. So all of my criticism is regarding this version of the film, not the Comprehensive version or The Corinth version (which I've seen and definitely enjoyed more than this one.

First of all, Guy Van Stratten is loathsome. I know Welles knows this. I know that's the point. Doesn't change the fact that it's a poorly acted part. The way the film is edited adds no tension. There's no build-up. There's no surprises. The film just rushes along relentlessly at a monotonous pace. The wonderful sets and ridiculous, over-the-top nature of the film that Welles is clearly going for is swept under the rug. All the little things that make Welles' films great, which always end up cut in butchered versions of his films, are gone here. I can accept how Van Stratten comes into contact with Arkadin. But I cannot accept how good he is at following the threads and picking up things. He's an idiot and a buffoon, and there's no reason for him to be so good at his job.

Many big moments, again, just felt flat. When we find out how Arkadin built his fortune (white slavery) it should be a big deal. I never caught that in the other versions, and only figured out that was how he made his riches by reading the McBride book. Now that I finally caught it in the film, why is it not emphasized in any way? It's a barely tossed off comment and there's no reason that Van Stratten could've figured it out. I will say Welles is very entertaining and good in the role. But he's sort of out of place in a sea of not great acting (except by Tamiroff, of course!)

What is Mr. Arkadin? A parable for post-WWII Europe, like The Third Man It's certainly shot that way. One of the best things about the film is that it feels like it could be of any time. We are in castles and dealing with a king like man that make it feel like a film set in the pre-industrial age. Then we are in cars and airports that make the film modern. Again, this is something rather unique to Europe it seems. But I don't know how it fits in with this film. And if that was a point of the film, I don't know how it really fits.

I will say the film made more sense to me now, but that's probably just because it's the third time/version I've seen. I'm looking forward to revisiting the comprehensive version, but Confidential Report is totally skip-able.

The positive criticism of Mr. Arkadin tends to focus, it seems, on Welles taking his stylistic flourishes and pushing them as far as one can go. I'd say Touch of Evil does that a million times better. While he only finished 4 films afterwards, it's clear this is a stopping point. The films that come after Touch of Evil bear almost no resemblance to the Welles of the 40s and 50s, and obviously, he goes out with a bang. I don't know what I can add to the film meaningfully, but the theatrical version (projected in academy!) is stupendous. There are lots of things missing that make the Re-Constructed version a real treat. Losing the entire Grandi car scene where he's trying to follow Vargas is a loss. But the butchering done to this film just isn't too bad. The theatrical version is still a brilliant, brilliant film.

Pacing-wise, we also get a very different treat than other Welles films. What I've noticed is that his excellent editing gives us fast-paced and slow scenes. We have moments of mania in some parts of films which, tonally, are balanced out by contemplation and brooding. This is done fantastically in his first two Shakespeare adaptations. Not in Touch Of Evil though. It grabs you by the juggular at the outset and never quits. Again, I don't need to go on about how beautifully it's shot and how dark the tone is and how excellent the cast is (boy do Welles' films falter when the cast isn't up to par). Everything's great. I can do nothing but recite Terry Comito's analysis of the "border crossing" that is ongoing in the film. And it really is everywhere. My favorite moment is the border Welles crosses when he sips alcohol for the first time. At that point, the dye is really cast. He's crossed over into a new territory of amorality, even for him.

If there's one thing in this film that does point the way towards Welles' later work, it's his explicit treatment of subject matter. This may just be in line with the way violence and sex evolved in this time period in general, but this film is remarkably violent. And while Welles' later films aren't generally violent, they point the way to how explicitly and openly he treats sex later on. Welles doesn't treat either of these subject matters with a lot of explicitness through 1955, but here it begins to show up I feel.

One question: is the revelation that the shoe clerk "confessed" present in the theatrical version? I may have missed it, but I could swear that piece of dialogue was cut from the version I saw.

The Trial and Chimes At Midnight are both masterpieces. The latter is regarded as such, but I'm still surprised reading negative criticism of the former by McBride and Bogdanovich, even if they've apparently come around to the film. There are two motifs that permeate Welles' films: 1) great figures falling from power 2) labyrinths that suck in the unsuspecting. Most of his early films deal with both to a degree, though some favor one theme over the other (Stranger, Othello, and Ambersons with the former, and Arkadin and Shanghai in the latter). With The Trial and Chimes At Midnight, we see Welles take on only one of his major themes at a time. The results are amazing.

The Trial is an endless labyrinth. We start somewhere we do not know. And we are quickly sucked in to something we don't understand. As K tries to get out, he falls further and further into this in-navigable maze. The evil he wants to expose is only behind the "closed door" we hear about in the film. It's in his bedroom. It's in a large courtroom. It's in a closet where three men appear. But when K is out in the open, the world seems totally normal. And he seems like the evil/crazy/deranged one. As soon as he leaves a door that he wasn't supposed to use (I believe from the Advocate's quarters), he has violated the rules of society and must be gone. The film perfectly exhibits how society can destroy someone. How one is forced to fit in, even against their own will. Even if your place where you must "fit in" is as a criminal, suspended in legal limbo. Follow the rules and you get to live. But of course: at what cost?

The sets, shooting, and tone of the film are incredibly dark. I disagree strongly with McBride's assertion that the darkness on the film wears thin. It is extremely potent and works fantastically. It fits in perfectly with, from the same year, The Manchurian Candidate in style and tone (also: what a superb score. The jazz in the film was great.) The Trial is the ultimate maze in Welles' work. This particular maze has no end, no destination. The maze and labyrinth exist to continue their own existence. K is not a great man that faces a downfall. He's a nobody, and that goes a long way to show how terrifying and ordinary society can be.

And Chimes at Midnight is the perfect film about betrayal, and a great man's downfall. Perversely, the great man is not the king, but his affable friend. As with Touch of Evil and the Trial, we get amazing performances in this film, especially by Prince Hal. And there is likely no greater moment in the cinema of Welles than Hal's dismissal of his former companion.

What a lovable character we get in Welles' Falstaff. The battle scene stuck out to me more than just because of it's power as an action scene. It does a fantastic job of showing the context of Falstaff. He has no need or interest in the actions of the kingdom. To me, one of the most telling things about the battle scene is that we really don't know who is winning until the end. The action is given an amazing potency because it is all we focus on. And in this moment, we can perfectly identify with Falstaff. While we know he is joking around during much of the film, and we know he embellishes to make himself seem greater than he is, it's of no real concern to us. We know what is in Falstaff's heart. And the idea that he has bad blood with the king, but chooses to just stay away and make snide remarks from the safety of his own home illustrates what a great, noble man he is. He is littered with shortcomings, but his shortcomings only affect himself, and are ultimately harmless. The exact opposite of Hal and his father, whose shortcomings threaten men's lives and a kingdom.

Both The Trial and Chimes keep a more consistent tone than any of his previous films, until the fantastic climactic scenes which are potent, memorable, and brilliant.

And now, I need a break!

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Re: Orson Welles

#202 Post by nolanoe » Sat Jan 31, 2015 6:08 pm

I am told regularly "How can you call yourself a Welles fan if you haven't even seen The Trial?" I shall investigate!!

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hearthesilence
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Re: Orson Welles

#203 Post by hearthesilence » Sat Jan 31, 2015 7:05 pm

It took me a while to get into The Trial. It was one of the first Welles films that I saw, soon after Citizen Kane and Touch of Evil, and I didn't like it at all. In retrospect, it was partly because it was a crappy VHS transfer (many of those since it's a public domain film). High contrast, a huge loss in detail, and horrible sound.

I gave it another chance when I found a decent DVD edition years later, and what a revelation. I was much more familiar with cinema and Welles by that point, and I finally saw it as a masterpiece. If there's a qualification, it's that it's such an oppressive work, visually one of the oppressive films I've ever seen. It's like every composition and every frame was an encapsulation of Frank Kafka, so I can see someone being put off by that, but personally I was floored, just a masterful display of mise-en-scène. Later, I heard Wes Anderson claim that you can see the money running out of the production as the film progressed - I was not aware of that and can't confirm the veracity of that claim, but it never felt like that, it all felt completely organic, and I never got a sense that anything was compromised, at least not in the usual way.

Re: Chimes at Midnight, visually - the compositions, the editing - again, all incredible, and even on repeated viewing it still leaves a strong impression. But what's made the film so fascinating to me on repeated viewing is Hal - what to make of him? The first time I saw it, I got the impression that this was a man changed by the awareness that he killed the better man, something that encourages him to grow up and live up to the responsibility of the crown. Even when he breaks Falstaff's heart, the tragedy felt tempered by genuine if misguided nobility. I think this viewpoint was influenced by my overfamiliarity with Olivier's Henry V, with Hal becoming the ideal king that England needed, so on some level I was predisposed into believing that Hal was on his way to becoming that man.

When I was able to pay better attention to Welles' own interpretation of the material and ignore what's usually made of the canonical text (and to be fair, read every line thanks to subtitles), Hal became a lot more interesting and a lot more complex. This guy is very self-conscious about his legacy, of his past, present and future. I don't doubt the sincerity of his darkest moments, but from the very start, he's pretty calculating, knowing his days as a ne'er-do-well will not last, but indulging himself anyway, knowing full well that it would make his eventual "transformation" all the more commendable in the eyes of the people.

One question: Godard's Made in USA (which I believe was filmed soon after Chimes at Midnight was released) includes the line "…you've robbed me of my youth." I'm guessing the homage was motivated by Welles' film, was it not?

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Drucker
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Re: Orson Welles

#204 Post by Drucker » Sat Jan 31, 2015 11:22 pm

Regarding The Trial and the money running out, that might have been a purposeful decision. The original conception, according to McBride's (or This is Orson Welles, both of which I'm leafing through) was complex sets that would have broken down throughout the course of the film, until all that was left what was in K's mind.

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Re: Orson Welles

#205 Post by Roger Ryan » Mon Feb 02, 2015 10:09 am

Drucker wrote: One question: is the revelation that the shoe clerk "confessed" present in the theatrical version? I may have missed it, but I could swear that piece of dialogue was cut from the version I saw.
The revelation regarding the shoe clerk, contained in a line of dialogue hastily delivered by Mort Mills as "Al Schwartz", is present in all three versions. The information is thrown out there as a way of quickly solving the mystery, so the viewer won't be wondering who placed the bomb in the car trunk in the opening shot. By the time that throwaway line is delivered, you realize the film hasn't been concerned with the central murder mystery for most of its running time! That mystery is this film's "Rosebud".

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Re: Orson Welles

#206 Post by hearthesilence » Mon Feb 02, 2015 11:57 am

I've never seen the film's first theatrical cut, but the 1998 reconstruction is definitely my go-to cut.

I saw the "preview" version a bunch of times on AMC, back when it was still a TCM-like network, and when I finally saw the 1998 reconstruction on DVD, it was a marked improvement. Cross-cutting definitely worked better for me, even made more logical sense since it covered the distance/time that elapsed in certain parts (mainly when characters need time to cross the border). Also, I liked that Menzies is sturdier and more defiant - I thought his character was just growing on me differently, but then I realized it was all due to one (one!) excised close-up that made all the difference. In the old cuts, he basically caves in completely in the records room, and from then on he's kind of a broken man, and in retrospect, it deflates a measure tension out of the climax.

The reconstruction's opening initially felt jarring because I was so used to hearing the score. After a few years away from Touch of Evil, I came back to it, and it feels right now, especially since I've become more familiar with Welles' other films in the interim. I could see Welles reinstating the credits, but in much smaller font. It now looks kind of ridiculous how those big letters on the old opening covered up so much of the picture, especially when there's so much going on. Those credits now look completely distracting and it kills the suspense.

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Re: Orson Welles

#207 Post by hearthesilence » Mon Feb 02, 2015 2:03 pm

Anyone go to the Chimes at Midnight screening with the Beatrice Welles Q&A?

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Re: Orson Welles

#208 Post by FrauBlucher » Mon Feb 02, 2015 4:24 pm

Film Forum has added a screening of Chimes At Midnight for this coming Saturday afternoon. I was away and this gives me a chance to see it. Oh happy day.

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Re: Orson Welles

#209 Post by hearthesilence » Mon Feb 02, 2015 5:14 pm

Nice! I was wondering about that, especially since one screening had to deal with the snow storm and another the Super Bowl.

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Re: Orson Welles

#210 Post by Drucker » Mon Feb 02, 2015 6:07 pm

Just bought tickets. After this, I zoom over to Brooklyn to see The Thing in 35mm at BAM. I'm honestly exhausted from seeing films in theater this month.

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Re: Orson Welles

#211 Post by teddyleevin » Tue Feb 03, 2015 12:38 am

Just returned from the "world premiere" of Too Much Johnson.

I assume many of you might have seen the work print that's available online, so the contents of the film isn't a huge shock. There were intertitles used by the creators of this performance that were unobtrusive, in style, and garnered laughs; I think Welles would approve.

The obvious highlight is still the whole prologue to act I, everything before they get on the steamer. It's amazing footage really, with some of the most striking images happening in Arlene Francis's bedroom (her part his too small; that said, the entire chase gets put in motion because half of a picture is shoved down her dress). There was applause (mild-mannered) for Cotten: on his first appearance and on a some of the more dangerous stunts. The footage seems to be simultaneously of the silent era, of the late 30s, and of the latter half of the 20th century. The only real give away is the under-built NYC, and as a native, it's mostly unrecognizable.

This whole first sequence gives way to the first section of the play. The actors held scripts but had costumes and were as staged as could be in the small playing area. A few laughs were had by way of interjected apologies, begging indulgence for missing props or explaining archaic terminology. The farce is pretty predictable and suitably unbelievable, but there is humor to be had. There were definitely moments that would have landed better with more rehearsal (there was a lot of stumbling, given that they were also trying to walk around and act with each other). The best line in the play involved the steamer's porter amazingly being able to relate the entire plot thus far in one monologue, lamp-shading the over-the-top composition of the story, but the timing was just barely misjudged and the great joke was just a good one.

The underrehearsed aspect made the play sections drag by just making them lack verve and intent; one time an actor (the director as well) missed his entrance, leading to one of the biggest laughs of the night as the other actors briefly struggled to fill in. The actors were all fine players, and all well suited to their types and the characters they were supposed to be matching from the Mercury company. The most striking performance was from Steve Sterner as the French cuckold trying to track down Cotten's character. Steve is known as being FF's resident pianist (a task which he performed with his usual gusto this evening during the film segments), but I didn't know he could also ham it up with the best of them on stage.

The second film segment is barely worth noting, and the third is just one minor set piece that lacks the power of the first, Lloyd-esque segment, but has an amusing punchline.

All-in-all, I'm glad I saw it. I don't know if I would choose to see it again anytime soon, but any one who is a devotee of Welles, owes it to themselves to try to make it to this, as a chance to see this probably won't happen again anytime soon.

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Re: Orson Welles

#212 Post by hearthesilence » Tue Feb 03, 2015 1:02 am

teddyleevin wrote:All-in-all, I'm glad I saw it. I don't know if I would choose to see it again anytime soon, but any one who is a devotee of Welles, owes it to themselves to try to make it to this, as a chance to see this probably won't happen again anytime soon.
Hope you all got your tickets because the encore screening is now sold out.

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Re: Orson Welles

#213 Post by teddyleevin » Tue Feb 03, 2015 1:17 am

You can hope for bad weather, at the very least. There were a number of no-shows at the sold out FF Members screening, and there were still a fair amount of empty seats (I presume everyone on the waitlist got in as well). If you're REALLY desperate, and you get there early enough on the day of, I'd be shocked if they didn't release more tickets on account of no shows.

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Re: Orson Welles

#214 Post by Professor Wagstaff » Tue Feb 03, 2015 10:26 pm

Karina Longworth's podcast You Must Remember This had a terrific episode this week about Rita Hayworth that covered a lot about her relationship with Welles and The Lady from Shanghai.

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Re: Orson Welles

#215 Post by FrauBlucher » Wed Feb 04, 2015 8:30 am

hearthesilence wrote:
teddyleevin wrote:All-in-all, I'm glad I saw it. I don't know if I would choose to see it again anytime soon, but any one who is a devotee of Welles, owes it to themselves to try to make it to this, as a chance to see this probably won't happen again anytime soon.
Hope you all got your tickets because the encore screening is now sold out.
Yesterday went to the FF to see Timbuktu. Got to pick up a ticket for Saturday's screening of Chimes at Midnight. Fortunately they still have some tickets for sale at the box office.

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Re: Orson Welles

#216 Post by teddyleevin » Wed Feb 04, 2015 1:28 pm

I am shocked at how well Chimes is selling, not that I don't love the film with all of my heart.

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Re: Orson Welles

#217 Post by FrauBlucher » Sun Feb 08, 2015 9:13 am

Yesterday I got to see Chimes At Midnight at the Film Forum. It is oh so Welles and it's one of his best. The restoration looked terrific as far as I could tell. Not sure how bad it was beforehand.

On a bit of a side note, afterwards, I asked Bruce Goldstein if the rights were picked up for a home release. He said it's in the works but the rights issues were difficult and that's why he could only show it on a very limited basis. I didn't ask specifically about CC because I don't think he would have told me. My guess is Criterion, Cohen or Kino. Goldstein has a strong relationship with all three.

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Drucker
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Re: Orson Welles

#218 Post by Drucker » Sun Feb 08, 2015 10:22 am

The restoration did look good, but seemed to be restored from a print? There were cigarette burns at the reel changes on the restoration. It was a great experience, but it didn't match the likes of Shanghai or Othello's restoration.

On another note, FrauBlucher, was that you who purposely assaulted that old man during the 3rd trailer? :roll:

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Re: Orson Welles

#219 Post by NABOB OF NOWHERE » Sun Feb 08, 2015 11:08 am

...or the assaulted old man?

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Re: Orson Welles

#220 Post by hearthesilence » Sun Feb 08, 2015 11:33 am

I never knew how often violence and angry confrontations can break out in an art house cinema until I moved here. Only in NY.

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Re: Orson Welles

#221 Post by FrauBlucher » Sun Feb 08, 2015 12:00 pm

:lol: Drucker, that happened three rows behind me, as I was jammed up again the giant pillar I couldn't really tell what was going on. But I did enjoy you yelling at them to "cut it out." :wink:

Hearthesilence, some folks think art house means my house. :roll:

I thought the resto was a bit uneven. The close ups and many of the interiors looked terrific, with strong detail. I'm sure the source was a total mess. I hope Criterion or Cohen get the rights. They will continue to work on the restoration, where as Kino will put out whatever they receive from Filmoteca Española.

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Re: Orson Welles

#222 Post by Drucker » Sun Feb 08, 2015 1:22 pm

Of course, I went to see The Thing later that evening at Brooklyn Academy of Music. Packed house of all 20-and 30-somethings like myself, incredibly enthusiastic and well-behaved.

The guy who got indignant (it looked like he was escorted out immediately) wasn't as bad as the guy three rows behind me laughing way too hard and too long at every moment of humor in the movie.

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Re: Orson Welles

#223 Post by Roger Ryan » Mon Feb 09, 2015 9:51 am

FrauBlucher wrote: I thought the resto was a bit uneven. The close ups and many of the interiors looked terrific, with strong detail. I'm sure the source was a total mess.
This shouldn't be the case. The two times I've seen CHIMES screened in 35mm (1993 and 2006), the prints were in excellent condition. Perhaps those pesky rights issues are still preventing a proper restoration being done from the negative. Nonetheless, happy to hear this new restoration provided a better viewing experience than the print Harvard had on hand.

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Re: Orson Welles

#224 Post by teddyleevin » Tue Feb 10, 2015 1:04 pm

Drucker wrote:Of course, I went to see The Thing later that evening at Brooklyn Academy of Music. Packed house of all 20-and 30-somethings like myself, incredibly enthusiastic and well-behaved.

The guy who got indignant (it looked like he was escorted out immediately) wasn't as bad as the guy three rows behind me laughing way too hard and too long at every moment of humor in the movie.
Seeing Umbrellas of Cherbourg at BAM brought me the same experience. Nice youngins.

At Film Forum, it's usually this homeless woman, baffling the staff as she wanders up and down the aisles with a cart trying to find a seat, only capable of grunts, who then leaves after 20 minutes, taking another 20 to make her way back up the aisle.

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Re: Orson Welles

#225 Post by FrauBlucher » Tue Feb 10, 2015 6:03 pm

teddyleevin wrote:
Drucker wrote:Of course, I went to see The Thing later that evening at Brooklyn Academy of Music. Packed house of all 20-and 30-somethings like myself, incredibly enthusiastic and well-behaved.

The guy who got indignant (it looked like he was escorted out immediately) wasn't as bad as the guy three rows behind me laughing way too hard and too long at every moment of humor in the movie.
Seeing Umbrellas of Cherbourg at BAM brought me the same experience. Nice youngins.

At Film Forum, it's usually this homeless woman, baffling the staff as she wanders up and down the aisles with a cart trying to find a seat, only capable of grunts, who then leaves after 20 minutes, taking another 20 to make her way back up the aisle.
As a member of the Film Forum I totally agree. I love the place, but easily feel annoyed by the old, possession freaks who attend the screenings on a regular basis. As a 50 year old, I'd rather hang with the youngins at these things.

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