"Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year"
With those simple words, filmmakers the world over, were given a new "cinematic" tool, as edited by Orson Welles in what everyone seems to think is the greatest movie ever made, Citizen Kane.
Now, strange as it may seem, I can't recall this particular editing innovation being used very often in movies after Citizen Kane was released. Maybe it's because I have a New Years Eve hangover from drinking a a few too many Gimlet's with Glenn Anders and Todd Baesen at the Ha-Ra Club (by the way, I told Todd to stop his rant against the new messageboard. Although I don't much like it, either, it's better than having nothing!)
However, to return to "Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year," it seems to me it recalls the cut in Kubrick's 2001 where we cover many years in the story in a single cut.
Welles had discovered a very effective cinematic device that nobody else ever seems to be using these days. Maybe it's like the dissolve, and it has simply gone out of fashion, but it's a technique that you would think some hot-shot young director would have picked-up on.
But, speaking of the dissolve, why would should that have gone so out of fashion in today's movies? It's one of the most poetic and beautiful things a director or a film editor has at their disposal. That is why Citizen Kane's opening is so poetic. And just look at the beautiful dissolves in Terence Malick's films.
Maybe it's just because today's young MTV trained directors don't even know what a dissolve is. Could that be why they are so out of fashion?
If that is the case, it's a pretty pathetic indictment of film schools. It reminds me of Welles own comments on what was "cinematic" made circa 1948. He and Jean Cocteau were at the Venice film Festival, and both wondered what the formula was for creating a "cinematic" experience, if only so they could put it into effect in one of their future films. At the time, both Welles and Cocteau had made films from plays they had already directed for the stage. Welles had just done Macbeth, while Cocteau had just started work on Les Parents Terribles.
The point being, "cinematic" was really just a fake description for what critics wanted movies to be. What is really cinematic, would be, as Welles said in 1958, giving the camera to someone who could use it as "an eye in the head of a poet."
So let's have more poets who want to make movies, and less bastards who are raised on MTV and want to become rich and famous!
In any event, here is wishing everyone at Wellesnet a very Happy New Year, and as promised, here is the second part of ORSON WELLES autobiography that was published in Paris Vogue.
A BRIEF CAREER AS A MUSICAL PRODIGY
By Orson Welles - PARIS VOGUE, December, 1982
Violinist, pianist...child conductor...
This last was pretty much of a fake. By the time I was seven I was reading through the scores and waving my little baton in the presence of such people as Heifetz, Casals, Schnabel, Wallenstein and Mischa Ellman, when they gathered informally in chamber groups in my mother's house. Her own professional life was frustrated by long illness, but just about everybody was in love with her, so the celebrated musicians, when they came to visit and play, were kind enough to pretend that the midget Von Karajan in front of them was not (as I must truly have been) a damned nuisance.