The Pacific Film Archive presents an ORSON WELLES retrospective: March 7 – April 13, 2008
The Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley, California is presenting a nearly complete retrospective of films directed by Orson Welles, including rare screenings of Chimes at Midnight and The Immortal Story. Unfortunately, these two films will be shown in 16mm versions. Also, there will be no rare material from the Munich archive, and quite sadly, no showings of Fountain of Youth or Filming Othello. Otherwise, it will comprise all of Orson Welles completed movies, shown in vintage 35mm prints.
THE MAGNIFICENT MR. WELLES
March 7, 2008 - April 13, 2008
Like the movies of Renoir, Chaplin or John Ford, the films of Orson Welles are distinctively autographed by their maker. "Film is a very personal thing," Welles has said, "Much more than the theatre, because the film is a dead thing—a ribbon of celluloid—like the paper on which one writes a poem. Theatre is a collective experience; cinema is the work of one single person—the director." In twenty years, Welles has made just seven pictures that can fairly be called his own, but there is a personal unity in his work that can be found in only the very greatest poets of the cinema. ("I believe that any work is good only in the measure it expresses the man who created it.") One may enter at any point in a Welles film and never doubt who its director is—not only because of his darkly lyric imagery, his mysterious, brooding sense of the evil in the world, his remarkable technical ingenuity and originality, his witty, probing dialogue, or indeed his own physical presence as an actor, but also because of the profound theme that runs through all his work, man as a tragic victim of the paradox between his sense of morality and his own dark nature. All the leading Welles characters are damned, from Charles Foster Kane to Hank Quinlan (in Touch of Evil), all of them larger-than-life, morally detestable men for whom, somehow, one has deep sympathy. As Welles put it: "I don't detest them, I detest the way they act—that is my point of tension. All the characters I've played are various forms of Faust. I hate all forms of Faust, because I believe it's impossible for man to be great without admitting there is something greater than himself—either the law or God or art—but there must be something greater than man. I have sympathy for those characters—humanly but not morally." And because of this compassion, Welles refuses to judge his people. He shows them for what they are, but his jacks are never one-eyed; he withholds judgment on the "great bastards" he portrays. "One has no right to judge except by a religion," he has said. "To decide if someone is good or bad is the law of the jungle."
The dark poetry of Orson Welles is peopled with men who in some form or another have made themselves a world over which to reign—have placed themselves above the law or God or art: Kane, who tried with his newspapers and money to win the love of the people; the Ambersons, symbols of the false pride of a useless, decaying aristocracy; Arthur Bannister, the lawyer (in The Lady From Shanghai) who placed himself above the law; Macbeth, with his "vaulting ambition"; Othello's "green-eyed monster"; Mr. Arkadin, the adventurer who created a world unto himself and tried to destroy his past; Quinlan, the cop who thought he could be the law and final judge. These are the doomed, classic characters of a Faustian world, the leading figures in the seven tragic poems of Orson Welles. For, more than anything else, the cinema of Welles is a poetic one—painted with dazzling, florid, bold strokes. Not to speak of his accomplishments in the theatre or radio, Welles is, perhaps, the most striking moviemaker of our time—his films sing, flow and vibrate with the vision of a thrilling, original talent and a consummate, inspired artist.
—Peter Bogdanovich, The Cinema of Orson Welles (1961)
Friday, March 7, 2008 - 7:00 p.m.
Citizen Kane, according to director Martin Scorsese, made Orson Welles “responsible for inspiring more people to be film directors than anyone else in the history of cinema.” Starring, produced, directed and co-written by Welles, Citizen Kane opened May 1, 1941 at the El Capitan Theater in Hollywood. The picture was nominated for nine Academy Awards and Welles was personally recognized in four catagories, winning the Oscar for Best Screenplay.
The picture starred actors from Welles Mercury Theater, who at the time, were entirely new to motion pictures. Joseph Cotten played Jedediah Leland, the best friend of Charles Foster Kane, while William Alland was the investigative reporter who delves into the life of Kane, in a quest for the meaning of Kane's dying word, “Rosebud.” Welles himself played the title role, from a boyish, ambitious young man to the old, bloated and embittered recluse he became. Other actors Welles cast included Everett Sloane, Agnes Moorehead, Ruth Warrick and Paul Stewart. Alan Ladd and Arthur O’Connell appeared in uncredited bit parts as reporters.
THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS
Saturday, March 8, 2008 - 5:00 p.m. (not on DVD)
Booth Tarkington's novel The Magnificent Ambersons, which won the 1918 Pulitzer Prize, held special meaning for Welles. He maintained that the character of Eugene Morgan was based on his father, who had been an associate of Tarkington. He felt an affinity for the portrait of a wealthy family's fall set against the backdrop of fin de siecle America being overtaken by the ensuing Industrial Age, and he played the part of the spoiled protagonist, George Amberson Minafer, in the radio production. But when it came time to shoot the film, he selected cowboy actor Tim Holt for George. Welles also used some of his Mercury Theater stock company from Citizen Kane-Joseph Cotten as inventor Eugene Morgan, Agnes Moorehead as the repressed Aunt Fanny and the jovial Ray Collins as Uncle Jack-to fill out the cast, choosing then unknown Anne Baxter for the ingenue role of Lucy.
JOURNEY INTO FEAR
Wednesday, March 12, 2008 - 8:15 p.m. (not on DVD)
Previewed at 91 minutes, in August 1942. Final version released February 12, 1943 at 69 minutes.
Directed by Norman Foster (with Orson Welles)
Screenplay by Joseph Cotten and Orson Welles
Cinematography by Karl Struss
Art Direction by Albert S. D'Agostino and Mark-Lee Kirk
Set Decorations by Darrell Silvera and Ross Dowd
Gowns by Edward Stevenson
Special Effects by Vernon L. Walker
Music by Roy Webb
Edited by Mark Robson
Sound Recording by Bailey Fesler and James G. Stewart
Thursday, March 13, 2008 - 6:30 p.m.
During the distant sound of a great clock tolling the hour. On a white field we see the twisted silhouette of a demon. CAMERA, moving down shows this to be cast from a tree from the window outside. The curtains, full of moonlight, are blowing in the wind. A beautiful girl is lying in bed (MARY) - Her eyes are open. She is counting the hours as the clock strikes. Something in the sound of it makes her wince with pain. On the sound track (filtered) breathing, like the wind itself, over the strange, light music we hear the voice of a man…
MAN’S VOICE (RANKIN’S) : It’s beautiful… It’s beautiful that way… Through the woods, over the little brook and through the cemetery…
EXTERIOR: LONGSTREET HOME – NIGHT
The terrace is bright with moonlight. Slowly the French doors from the living room open and the girl comes out. She is fully dressed. She carries a small package under one arm. CAMERA follows her as she moves across the terrace across the lawn and off towards the fields and woods stretching into the distance. A gust of wind blows the door shut with a loud bang.
EXTERIOR WOODS – NIGHT
A ghostly figure under the moon, the girl emerges from the shadows of the trees and reaches a little stream at the edge. There is no hesitation as she crosses on the stepping stones, only grim determination. Reaching the opposite bank, she hurries on towards the church whose spire points toward the moon in the middle distance.
EXTERIOR - THE CEMETERY – NIGHT
Unhesitatingly the girl picks her way through the rows of tombstones. Again she hears, weirdly, through the faint complaint of the wind, a man’s voice.
MAN’S VOICE (RANKIN’S) : James Longstreet, 1896-1917. Died for his country. Noah Longstreet, 1842-1863. Died for his country. William Longstreet, 1713-1794. Died for his country… Ahead of her looms the church, its rear door plainly in view. For a moment she hesitates, then continues.
INTERIOR CHURCH NIGHT
It is full of ghostly shadows and ominous half-tones from the moonlight diffused through the stained glass windows. The girl enters the empty church. She moves down the side aisle and goes across a row of pews and goes down the center aisle toward the open door leading into the vestibule.
INTERIOR VESTIBULE NIGHT
The girl, holding her package very carefully, begins to mount toward the belfry. CAMERA stays on her as she climbs. She comes finally to a ladder. One of its rungs is missing. With her free hand the girl grasps what still stands upright and continues on - up into the belfry.
A TOWN SQUARE - NEW ENGLAND – NIGHT
Townspeople are gathering under the moonlight — men and women alike. They carry shotguns, rakes, baseball bats - any kind’ of hastily gathered weapon of protection. Some are in various stages of hasty dressing. All are moving toward the church.
EXTERIOR - CHURCH – NIGHT – FRESH ANGLE
The townspeople are converging on the church from all directions.
EXTERIOR- CHURCH - NIGHT - STILL ANOTHER ANGLE
A piercing scream is heard.The scream is so high that it is impossible to tell whether it was uttered by a man or woman. Dimly on the ledge below the clock we see, high above us, two figures apparently locked in a death struggle. It is difficult to see much in the shadows but it looks as though these figures are, respectively male and female. A huge gasp breathes from the crowd below as the two figures, seeming to clutch at each other teeter and fall toward us through the darkness. CAMERA swoops down with this but we cannot see the figures fall to earth. They are blocked off by the backs of the townspeople which now are silhouetted sharply against the sky. A low excited muttering runs through the crowd, then voices are distinguishable - New England voices.
FIRST VOICE: I didn’t see it. You say they both fell?
ANOTHER VOICE: Yes, both of them. Together.
ANOTHER VOICE IN THE CROWD: Know who they were?
The murmur ceases here. There is a short pause.
ONE OF THE VOICES: I don’t know anything about it. Think we’ll ever know what really happened?
STILL ANOTHER VOICE (slowly) : I wonder… Who was he?
FADE IN - MAIN TITLE
(As the screen darkens, a sort of combination FADE OUT and DISSOLVE), there now glows out of the screen the distorted face of a grimacing demon. CAMERA races back to disclose the demon made of iron emerging through a dark portal through the side of the same massive clock we saw in the belfry. Superimposed over this are:
THE MAIN TITLES
THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI
Thursday, March 13, 2008 - 8:30 p.m.
60-SECOND RADIO SPOT TRANSCRIPTION
This is Orson Welles speaking. I just made a film for Columbia called The Lady From Shanghai. Rita Hayworth plays the lady of our title, the notorious Mrs. Bannister, a woman of the world, whom men remember in the dark of the night. Why she left Shanghai is something people don’t talk about… but you’ll talk about Rita Hayworth’s exciting portrayal of the title role in The Lady From Shanghai! You loved Rita as Gilda. You’ll be fascinated by Rita as The Lady From Shangahi, the woman no man was ever sure of.
To film our movie with total authenticity, we shot many scenes on location far from Hollywood in Acapulco, Mexico and in San Francisco. We chartered Errol Flynn’s yacht the Zaca and Errol himself served as our skipper. We sailed down to Acapulco Harbor and filmed on the world famous 25-mile long white sand beach there, as well as in the native section of Acapulco itself. In San Francisco, we shot in Chinatown at the famous Mandarin Theater and at the waterfront across the bay at Sausalito. So get ready for the thrill a minute time of your life when you see Columbia pictures unforgettable new drama, The Lady From Shanghai. It stars Rita Hayworth and myself. Everett Sloane and Glenn Anders play important featured roles. And it’s coming soon to a theater near you.
Sunday, March 23, 2008 - 2:00 p.m. (not on DVD)
THE SCREEN IN REVIEW: Orson Welles' Interpretation of Shakespeare's 'Macbeth' at the Trans-Lux 60th St.
By Bosley Crowther
The New York Times - December 28, 1950
Orson Welles' protean film production of William Shakespeare's "Macbeth," cut, re-cut, re-recorded and oft exhibited far and wide in the past three years, finally obtained a local haven at the Trans-Lux Sixtieth Street yesterday and turned out to be less of a vagary than its history might lead one to expect. As a matter of fact, this final rendering, which Mr. Welles directed and in which he stars, may not possess the searching insight and the dramatic clarity that one might desire but it has a great deal in its favor in the way of feudal spectacle and nightmare mood.
In the established Welles tradition, which has been building for a number of years, the theatrical mechanics of the medium are permitted to dominate the play and Shakespeare is forced to lower billing than either the director, the star or the cameraman. On weird sets, concocted by Fred Ritter, which cause the castle of Dunsinane to look less like a Scottish castle than like some sort of chasm or cave and the blasted heath of the witches to look like a bath of live steam, Mr. Welles deploys himself and his actors so that they move and strike the attitudes of tortured grotesques and half-mad zealots in a Black Mass or an ancient ritual.
Especially does Mr. Welles favor the pointing of the camera at himself from all sorts of distorting angles and in close-ups that make his face bulk large. Also he uses heavy make-up to darken and crease his countenance so that his Macbeth, much given to pondering, has a monstrous quality. Except that he offers the suggestion that this fatally ambitious man took rather heavily to drinking in the later phases of his bloody career, he accomplishes no illumination of the classical character.
And speaking of illumination, there is precious little of it in this film, either in the way of mere set lighting or in revelation of character. The Lady Macbeth of Jeanette Nolan is a pop-eyed and haggard dame whose driving determination is as vagrant as the highlights on her face. Likewise, her influence upon Macbeth, while fleetingly suggested in a few taut lines and etched in a couple of hot embraces, is not developed adequately. The passion and torment of the conflict between these two which resides in the play has been rather seriously neglected in this truncated rendering.
But then Mr. Welles implies frankly in a spoken foreword to the film that his is a study of the tensions, the political conflicts and the religious troubles of an ancient time. And the whole purpose of his production seems to be to create the vicious moods, the ruthlessness and the superstitions of the warriors in Scotland in Macbeth's day. Although there are some empty spaces and general vagueness in aligning details, the moods and the dark, oppressive horrors of a people and an age are well displayed.
Alan Napier plays a holy father as a grim, unrelenting militant, wearing a shaggy mop of coarse hair and two long, anomalous braids. Macduff is performed by Dan O'Herlihy as a grief-wracked, inarticulate man and a large cast of others look much better than they speak in subsidiary roles.
It is notable that Mr. Welles has borrowed from Sir Laurence Olivier the device of letting his voice speak some of the soliloquies while his lips do not move. This is not near as effective as it has been in Sir Laurence's Shakespearean films, mainly because the predominance of Mr. Welles' countenance obtrudes. He has obviated that, however, in the "Tomorrow and tomorrow—" soliloquy; while speaking this one, he has simply trained the camera on ominous clouds. The trick is characteristically theatrical, but it has its redeeming point.
The Tragedy of OTHELLO
Sunday, March 23, 2008 - 4:30 p.m.
ORSON WELLES: The Tragedy of OTHELLO. This is a motion picture based on the play by William Shakespeare.
Orson Welles directed and produced. This is a Mercury production.
Desdemona and Othello…
I have told thee often and I retell thee again and again:
I hate the Moor. It is thought abroad that twixt my sheets he
Hath done me offence. I know it be true.
What a full fortune does the thick lips owe!
If he can carry’t thus!
I'll poison his delight.
But how, Iago? - How, Iago?
Proclaim him in the streets; incense her kinsmen,
And, though he in a fertile climate dwell,
plague him with flies.
Now they come. What should I do think’st thou?
Why, go to bed, and sleep.
I will incontinently drown myself.
What should I do?
Do, put money in thy purse. Ere I would say,
I would drown myself for the love of a guinea-hen,
I would change my humanity with a baboon.
I say put money in thy purse. Come, be a man.
Drown thyself? Drown cats and blind puppies!
It cannot be that Desdemona should long continue her love to the Moor, or he his to her. This was a violent commencement, and thou shalt see an answerable sequestration. Fill thy purse with money. When she is sated with his body, he will find the error of her choice:
she must have change, she must.
Therefore make money. If thou needs damn thyself,
do it a more delicate way than drowning.
IAGO and RODERIGO
Awake! Thieves! Thieves! Look to your house! Look to your house! Your daughter! Your daughter!
Signor, is all you family within?
Why, wherefore ask you this?
If't be your pleasure... that your fair daughter be
Transported, with no worse nor better guard
But with a knave of common hire, a gondolier,
To the gross clasps of a lascivious Moor.
This thou shalt answer!
Straight satisfy yourself:
If she be in her chamber or your house.
Iago, can I depend on the issue?
Thou art sure of me: go, make money.
It is too true an evil: gone she is…
Is there not charms
By which the property of youth and maidhood
May be abused? Have you not read Roderigo
Of some such thing?
Yes sir, I have indeed.
Call up all my people, raise my kindred!
Where is the Moor? Out with him. Speak!
Hold your hands,
Both you of my inclining, and the rest:
Where it my cue to fight, I should have know it
Without a prompter.
O thou foul thief, where hast thou stow'd my daughter?
Keep up your bright swords, for the dew will rust them.
Good signor, where would you that I go
To answer this your charge?
To prison, till fit time
Of law and course of direct session
Call thee to answer.
Pray you lead on.
Iago, bring Desdemona after us, and let your wife attend on her.
Yes my lord?
Bring Desdemona after us.
Thursday, March 27, 2008 - 6:30 p.m.
MR. ARKADIN by Dennis Jakob
There is a cinema of reverence and a cinema of audacity. Put another way, there is the cinema of Dreyer, Bresson and Ozu, and there is the cinema of Eisenstein, Bunuel and Orson Welles. If "personality" becomes the key to a progressive evaluation of film aesthetics than it is "temperament" that is the key which unlocks the labyrinth of personality. In the middle Fifties' when French Auteur criticism was praising the long, uncut tracking shots of Ophuls and Mizoguchi, Welles had flung in the face of these exhausted theoreticians a film utterly unlike Citizen Kane or The Magnificent Ambersons. A film of montage fragmentation that brilliantly re-created the disintegration of a private world – the world of an immensely powerful international tycoon.
Everyone knows the story of the scorpion and the frog, embedded in one of the most powerful and baroque sequences of the film, that of the masked ball. And many, notably Andrew Sarris, have sought for a clue to the ultimate meaning of the film here, (as well as the film's grandiose central character). This might well be a red herring that Welles has heaved into the face of his critics, to throw them off the scent. There is another, much lesser known speech, the “goose-liver" monologue in which Mr. Arkadin draws some important distinctions between himself and the rather stupid, quasi-Caliostro-like figure of the foolish hero: there are those who give and those who ask. Those who do not care to give, and those who do not dare to ask. You asked, but you did not always know what you were asking for.” This then is the theme of the film, yet another re-statement of the Book of Genesis in the tradition of Goethe and Thomas Mann: touch not the fruit of the tree of knowledge, the knowledge of good and evil, touch it not lest ye die.
Mr. Arkadin knows, of course, to the full depths of the knowledge of good and evil, his secret. But like Michael O’ Hara, Guy Van Stratten, the foolish hero, blindly stumbling through the maze of the film, does not know. The naive hero on his quest survives, of course, just as Mr. Arkadin must die. The price paid is love. Which puts Welles movie squarely in the tradition of modern German Literature, not in the tradition of modern French aesthetics.
THE THIRD MAN
Friday, March 28, 2008 - 7:00 p.m.
FILMING THE THIRD MAN by John Miller
By all accounts Carol Reed was a relatively slow director, completing only a few shots or set-ups per day. Time was all-important during the Vienna shooting of The Third Man (1949), however, because the location filming needed to be completed before the late winter snows set in. To accommodate this, three shooting units were set up: a day unit, a night unit, and a sewer unit. Each had a separate director of photography (Robert Krasker shot the night footage), and Reed directed all, aided by his assistant director Guy Hamilton and (by some accounts) Benzedrine.
Reed went to great lengths to capture the atmosphere of the beleaguered city on film, and he was helped along by city officials and ordinary inhabitants. On nights when rain was unavailable to give the cobblestone streets the appropriate glistening sheen, for example, the city would provide a fire brigade to wet things down. Reed also incorporated many local residents into the film as extras such as the often glimpsed balloon seller.
Orson Welles arrived in Vienna in mid-November. Expecting to shoot around him earlier in the filming, Reed had already enlisted Guy Hamilton to play Lime in shots involving disembodied shadows caught running on building sides. (In another famous shot, Reed himself stepped in for Welles - the fingers seen reaching through the street-level grate at the end of the film are those of the director himself). The first scenes to be shot upon Welles' arrival were to take place in the sewer. However, the actor quickly fled the location as soon as he saw (and smelled) the sewer. In spite of the fact that the crew and several actors had been shooting down there for weeks, Welles refused to participate. Most of his scenes would be shot back in London in a sewer set built at Shepperton Studios. According to Reed's own account of this (quoted in Dictionary of Film): "Orson suddenly turned up one morning, just as we had set up our cameras in the famous sewers. He told me that he felt very ill, had just got over a bout of influenza, and could not possibly play the role ...I entreated him, in any case, just to stay and play the scene we had prepared, where he is chased along the sewers ...Reluctantly he agreed. 'Those sewers will give me pneumonia!' he grumbled, as he descended the iron steps. We shot the scene again. Then Orson asked us to shoot it again, although I was satisfied with the first 'take.' He talked with the cameraman, made some suggestions, and did the chase again. Then again. The upshot was that Orson did that scene ten times, became enthusiastic about the story - and stayed in Vienna to finish the picture."
Many accounts of Welles' tenure on the film imply that he wrote all of his own dialogue and/or took over directing chores from Reed. In truth, Welles added only the famous "cuckoo clock" speech and a few odd lines concerning indigestion pills.
Wrapping the location shooting by the end of 1948, the production shot for three months at Shepperton Studios in early 1949, only a week of which involved Welles. It is a credit to Reed and to art director Vincent Korda that many viewers assume that all of the shooting was done in Vienna.
One of the key elements of the film's unique flavor is the zither-only score by Anton Karas. Reed heard the zither player at a reception held when the company arrived in Vienna. On off days during location work, Reed made demo recordings of Karas at his hotel, later matching up the demos to footage during rough editing. He later brought Karas to London for proper recording, still intending to employ a mixture of zither and conventional orchestral scoring. As Reed combined the zither playing to more of the final edited shots, he realized they were a perfect match and used the solo instrument exclusively. When the film opened to sensational notices, almost every review singled out the score for special praise.
TOUCH OF EVIL
Friday, March 28, 2008 - 9:10 p.m.
ORSON WELLES LETTER TO THE NEW STATESMAN, LONDON - REGARDING TOUCH OF EVIL
May 24, 1958
Without being quite so foolish as to set my name to that odious thing, a 'reply to the critic', perhaps I may add a few oddments of information to Mr. Whitebait's brief reference to my picture TOUCH OF EVIL (what a silly title, by the way; it’s the first time I've heard it). Most serious film reviewers appear to be quite without knowledge of the hard facts involved in manufacturing and, especially, merchandising a motion picture. Such innocence, I'm sure, is very proper to their position; it is, therefore, not your critic I venture to set straight, but my own record. As author-director I was not and normally would not be-consulted on the matter of the 'release' of my film without a press showing. That this is an 'odd subterfuge', I agree; but there can be no speculation as to the responsibility for such a decision.
As to the reason, one can only assume that the distributor was so terrified of what the critics might write about it that a rash attempt was made to evade them altogether and smuggle TOUCH OF EVIL directly to the public. This is understandable in the light of the wholesale re-editing of the film by the executive producer, a process of re-hashing in which I was forbidden to participate. Confusion was further confounded by several added scenes which I did not write and was not invited to direct. No wonder Mr. Whitebait speaks of muddle. He is kind enough to say that 'Like Graham Greene' I have 'two levels'. To his charge that I have 'let the higher slip' I plead not guilty. When Mr. Greene finishes one of his 'entertainment's' he is immediately free to set his hand to more challenging enterprises. His typewriter is always available; my camera is not. A typewriter needs only paper; a camera uses film, requires subsidiary equipment by the truck-load and several hundreds of technicians. That is always the central fact about the film-maker as opposed to any other artist: he can never afford to own his own tools. The minimum kit is incredibly expensive; and one's opportunities to work with it are rarer less numerous than might be supposed. In my case, I've. been given the use of my tools exactly eight times in 20 years. Just once my own editing of the film has been the version put into release; and (excepting the Shakespearean experiments) I have only twice been given any voice at all as to the 'level' of my, subject matter. In my trunks stuffed with unproduced films scripts, there are no thrillers. When I make this sort of picture —- for which I can pretend to no special interest or aptitude —- it is not 'for the money' (I support myself as an actor), but because of a greedy need to exercise, in some way, the function of my choice: the function of director. Quite baldly, this is my only choice. I have to take whatever comes along from time to time, or accept, the alternative, which is not working.
Mr. Whitebait revives my own distress at the shapeless poverty of Macbeth's castle. The paper mache’ stagy effect in my film was dictated by a 'B-Minus' budget with a 'quickie' shooting schedule of 20 days.. Returning to the current picture, since he comments on the richness of the urban scenery of the Mexican border' perhaps Mr. Whitebait will be amused to learn that all shooting was in Hollywood. There was no attempt to approximate reality; the film's entire 'world' being the director’s invention. Finally, while the style of TOUCH OF EVIL may be somewhat overly baroque, there are positively no camera tricks. Nowadays the eye is tamed, I think, by the new wide screens. These 'systems’ with their rigid technical limitations are in such monopoly that any vigorous use of the old black -and-white, normal aperture camera runs the risk of seeming tricky by comparison. The old camera permits use of a range of visual conventions as removed from 'realism' as grand opera. This is a language not a bag of tricks. If it is now a dead language, as a candid partisan of the old eloquence, I must face the likelihood that I shall not again be able to put it to the service of any theme of my own choosing.
CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT (FALSTAFF)
Sunday, March 30, 2008 - 2:00 p.m. (not on DVD)
THE REIGN OF SPAIN
Time Magazine - Friday, Feb. 26, 1965
In Spain today, all the world's a sound stage. The Outlaw of the Red River, with George Montgomery, is now shooting on the banks of the Tagus River. Yacht to Jamaica never left Barcelona. Nor did Horst Buchholz as The Man from Istanbul. Orson Welles's epic of Falstaff, Chimes at Midnight, is packing up in Madrid, but Henry Fonda is just digging in around Segovia for The Battle of the Bulge. And in suburban Madrid, it looks as if Franco lost the Civil War after all: there, in a set ankle-deep in marble-dust snow, 1,500 Red revolutionaries have just taken over a ten-acre mock-up of Moscow. The film is Doctor Zhivago, starring Egypt's Omar Sharif, Alec Guinness, Ralph Richardson and, as Zhivago's young wife, Charlie Chaplin's 20-year-old daughter Geraldine. At $10 million, it is MGM's most free-spending spectacular since Ben-Hur.
Pumping Out Orson
All this action could be just another reason why Douglas Dillon wants out at the Treasury. The hegira from Hollywood and the hegemony of Spain seem inescapable. Spain's low living costs are equaled nowhere in Europe except Greece and Yugoslavia, and its range of scenery and climate are matched nowhere at all. Orson Welles, making do with a fish-and-flour warehouse as studio, paid rent of a mere $120 a month. And he didn't have to fabricate a medieval cobbled-street market, a walled village, or a 12th century Romanesque castle: all were within kilometers of his set. Which left most of his rigid $1,000,000 budget for casting, and he could hardly have made it pay better, signing on Jeanne Moreau as Doll Tearsheet, Sir John Gielgud as Henry IV, and even Margaret Rutherford as Mrs. Quickly. One other area where Welles didn't cut down: gluttony, which left him hospitalized after he gobbled up a middle-sized lamb and washed down four liters of hot wine.
Friday, April 4, 2008 - 7:00 p.m.
Time magazine - Jun 29, 1962
When he stood, everyone stood. When he sat, cross-legged like a giant Buddha on the floor, all eyes in the luxurious Paris apartment turned toward him. Through the whole long evening, he laughed, talked, puffed on a cigar, listened to the gypsy singers, and downed endless jiggers of vodka. At 3 in the morning, when two or three couples started for the door, he bellowed: "You're not leaving already, my friends. The night is young. Play, gypsies; play, play, play!" The guests stayed, the gypsies played. Once again, and at long last, Orson Welles was front and center.
Welles was basking in the afterglow and acclaim that attended the completion of the Welles-directed, Welles-scripted version of Kafka's The Trial, the story of a man victimized by the impersonal hostility of a bureaucratic world he never made. Viewers of the early rushes, including Directors Anatole Litvak and Jules Dassin, say they witnessed the birth of a classic. Twenty-one years after his Citizen Kane won him the title of boy genius and doomed him to a lifetime of trying to hold on to it, Orson Welles seemed to be making a comeback.
Waddling Exile. In between Kane and Kafka, Welles took two wives (Rita Hayworth and Incumbent Paula Mori), gained a couple of hundred pounds, and directed seven pictures. His wildly impressionistic Othello, and Macbeth in Scottish burr, were called moody masterpieces in Europe, but failed miserably in the U.S. Aside from brief bits of acting (most memorably in The Third Man and Compulsion), Welles did little more than perpetuate his public caricature. Smoking sequoia-sized cigars, he waddled like an exiled giant through Europe, looking gloomily for a future and nostalgically at the past.
Interviewed by Paris' Cahiers du Cinema, he talked of giving up the stage and screen forever, "since in a way they've already abandoned me. I've worked too hard for what I've been given in return. I can't spend my life in restaurants and festivals begging funds." He scraped along on occasional television appearances, started (but never finished) four films that he financed himself. Then Producers Michel and Alexander Salkind (a father and son team; Michel produced Greta Garbo's first film outside Sweden, the team an occasional epic in recent years) offered him a walk-on in Taras Bulba. Though he needed the money, Welles indignantly refused, trumpeting, "Are you crazy? I am Taras Bulba." But Welles seized the opportunity to tell the Salkinds of his long-cherished dream of making a movie of The Trial. "Sure we were scared," says Alexander Salkind. "Before we agreed to do it, we set out to find the money, and you can imagine, with Welles' reputation, what that was like. But all our fears have been dissipated."
For an estimated $1,300,000, the Salkinds gathered an international cast: France's Jeanne Moreau, Germany's Romy Schneider, Greece's Katina Paxinou, Italy's Elsa Martinelli, the U.S.'s Anthony Perkins. They left the rest to Welles. Welles spent six months on the script, paring it down to what he considered a workable approximation of the novel. Then he scoured Europe for possible locations, settled on Yugoslavia for its "natural sets, which couldn't be 'placed' by most cinema audiences, the faces in crowds with a Kafka look to them, and the hideous blockhouse, soul-destroying buildings, which are somehow typical of modern Iron Curtain architecture." In a mammoth exposition hall just outside Zagreb, Welles set up the 850 office desks, 850 secretaries and 850 clattering typewriters among which Kafka's hero, K, lived out his doom. Moving to Paris for later scenes, Welles picked the old, abandoned Gare d'Orsay (built for the Exposition of 1900, and now destined for demolition), whose baroque grotesqueries might well have been designed by Kafka; into its ruined corridors and dank corners Welles moved his props: the Advocate's gigantic gilt bed, hundreds of dripping candles, decaying tables and books. Wrote Director William Chappell in the London Sunday Times: "Welles discovered Kafka's world, with the genuine texture of pity and terror on its damp and scabrous walls, real claustrophobia in its mournful rooms, and intricacies of shape and perspective on a scale that would have taken months and cost fortunes to build."No man to yield a role to another actor if he can do it himself, Welles cast himself as the Advocate. But to the Salkinds' pleased astonishment, there were no shocks, no delays, no budget excesses.
In the afterglow of success, Welles briskly reverted to the arrogant ways of old, brushed off reporters, and put on a show of a man of many concerns. He was flying to Rome for two weeks to shoot The Trial's execution scene (nothing in France suited him), then was moving his family to Malaga for the summer. There he will also shoot the prologue and epilogue of his movie, Don Quixote ("I didn't have enough money to finish it before, but now I think I can swing it"), commuting to Paris to cut and edit The Trial, which is due for September release. At 47, the Boy Wonder was a boy again.
F FOR FAKE
Saturday, April 5, 2008 - 8:50 p.m.
Every true artist must, in his own way, be a magician, a charlatan. Picasso once said he could paint fake Picassos as well as anybody, and someone like Picasso could say something like that and get away with it. But an Elmyr de Hory? Elmyr is a profound embarrassment to the art world. He is a man of talent making monkeys out of those who have disappointed him. This film doesn't exalt the forger. It denounces the art market, because it is elementary, isn't it, that if you don't have the market, then fakers couldn't exist.
And Clifford Irving? He couldn't make it with his fiction, but making a fake biography made him the best-known writer in the world. Who are the experts? Elmyr de Hory had dramatized the question of whether or not art exists. It has always existed, but today I believe that man cannot escape his destiny to create whatever it is we make—jazz, a wooden spoon, or graffiti on the wall. All of these are expressions of man's creativity, proof that man has not yet been destroyed by technology. But are we making things for the people of our epoch or repeating what has been done before? And finally, is the question itself important? We must ask ourselves that. The most important thing is always to doubt the importance of the question.
THE IMMORTAL STORY
Friday, April 11, 2008 - 9:00 p.m. (not on DVD)
In the sixties of the last century there lived in Canton an immensely rich tea-trader, whose name was Mr. Clay. He was a tall, dry and close old man. He had a magnificent house and a splendid equipage, and he sat in the midst of both, erect, silent and alone.
Amongst the other Europeans of Canton Mr. Clay had the name of an iron-hard man and a miser. People kept away from him. His looks, voice and manner, more than anything actually known against him, had made him this reputation. All the same two or three stories about him, many times repeated, seemed to bear out the general opinion of the man. One of the stories ran as follows:
Fifteen years ago a French merchant, who at one time had been Mr. Clay's partner but later, after a quarrel between them, had started on his own, was ruined by unlucky speculations. As a last chance he tried to get a consignment of tea on board the clipper Thermopylae, which lay in the harbor ready to go under way. But he owed Mr. Clay the sum of three hundred guineas, and his creditor laid hands on the tea, got his own shipment of tea off with the Thermopylae, and by this move finally ruined his rival. The Frenchman lost all, his house was sold, and he was thrown upon the streets with his family. When he saw no way out of his misfortune he committed suicide.
IT'S ALL TRUE
Sunday, April 13, 2008 - 2:00 p.m.
Lecture by Joseph McBride. A fascinating history of the unfinished film that brought down Welles’s career.
I'm not trying to make a documentary film, nor am I interested in making a travelogue. I want to tell some of the stories of South America in an interesting manner and bring certain phases of Latin entertainment to the movie-going world. The picture will have music, color, romance, and will be of the land, the sea and the cities. It’s going to be a new medium of entertainment when it’s completed.
Mr. Welles is aware that he is facing tremendous difficulties. It's a safe bet that out of Welles's South American trek will come a new and novel production. It will be a great production if he gets an even break with fate.
—Tom Pettey, Unit Publicist on It’s All True