Variety’s original Mr. Arkadin review
Since Mr. Arkadin didn't open in America until 1962, it's not surprising that most of the U. S. press didn't review it until then (if at all), but strangely Variety also missed the boat, failing to review the film on it's European release. However, they made up for their mistake with this rather perceptive review, before the film opened at Dan Talbot's New Yorker theater in October, 1962. But one more Arkadin mystery presents itself: If the 99 minute Corinith version is what opened at The New Yorker in 1962, why did Variety list the film with a running time of 93 minutes. --LF
MR. ARKADIN (Confidential Report)
Orson Welles long time no see melodrama. One for the cine addicts.
Reviewed by Jack Pittman, Sept. 12, 1962
Quiescent as a "personal" filmmaker since he wrote and directed "Touch of Evil" for Universal (circa '58) Orson Welles' delayed bounce-back with the forthcoming "The Trial," from the Franz Kafka classic and starring Tony Perkins, which he screenplayed and directed. (American distribution is optioned by Astor Pictures, but the deal is not finalized).
Interimly, New York audiences will have a chance to inspect�commencing Oct. 2nd at the uptown New Yorker�a Welles pic completed in '55. "Mr. Arkadin" released abroad by Warners as "Confidential Report" but bypassed by distribs this side for some years until picked up by Coast vidfilm distributor M. & A. Alexander. But for reasons unspecified, no effort was made since to put "Arkadin" into U.S. theatrical exhibition.
Chronologically "Arkadin" is the third of Welles "personal" pictures after "The Magnificent Ambersons" (1942 for RKO) and "The Lady From Shanghai" (1948 for Columbia), and assertedly his most ambitious project since "Citizen Kane." There have been variously told tales of a dispute over the version handled by Warners, the substance of which is that Welles, claiming his work had been butchered, disowned the pic. It's believed his row was with "Arkadin" producer Louis Dolivet. Since Variety unaccountably carried no review of the pic (when the Warners version opened in London, in 1955), this is to now redress the omission. Whether the print to be shown by the New Yorker is primarily the Welles conception or something of a mutation, "Arkadin" is at once a fascinating (inevitably) and a dismaying effort, frequently suggestive of self-parody; and indeed, in scenario and technique, it is a 93-minute echo of �Kane� and that film�s bravura style.
Instead of newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane, here is Gregory Arkadin, shadow figure, arch-capitalist, graduate of a Polish �white slave" ring, but whose latter day power and riches are shrouded. Instead of Kane's Xanadu, Arkadin has a castle in Spain; instead of inanimate "Rosebud" there is a daughter (Welles� wife, Palo Mori), pretty, vital and over-protected.
The Welles imprimatur is all-pervasive, expectably in a "signature" pic. It is gray-toned, and the sharp interest is preferred to dissolve�the device employed, together with overlap dialog, to such brilliant time-telescoping effect in "Kane." His camera still angled skyward from somewhere around the knees, either for composition or stressed characterization (to suggest the powerful figure of Arkadin). The angular lensing, even at this advanced date, retains its capacity to thrall; but likewise, it often seems no more now than a tiresome affect.
Welles scenes, as is true of the whole body of his personal work, are often remarkable vignettes in themselves, playing like symbolic pasquinades. His action is kinetic, accentuated by a camera avid for crisp detail, capturing a bit of business, framing an effect to illuminate character (Arkadin's eyes straying to a bikini-clad femme as his conversation proceeds), intensifying mood almost to surrealist level. This expressing of tale and viewpoint in striking cinematic terms is, of course, the Welles m�tier.
The visual trickery in "Arkadin," albeit often irrelevant, is almost always fascinating�just because it�s a Welles orchestration, filling the screen with arresting oddment, with delicious detail�with, in short, excitement.
Technically the salient flaw is the sound�conspicuously post-dubbed. Except for some aphorisms that alone explain the film, the dialog is a constant impediment, notably that supplied by Robert Arden in a key role as an American con artist. Arden himself passes muster physically, but his thesping is distractingly one-note and a cornball performance damaging to the total.
Welles story is a parable, and verbalized as such by Arkadin at one point. It concerns a scorpion and a frog, and the moral is that character is immutable and thus logical even when seemingly illogical. Told in flashback, Mr. Arkadin is an amnesiac and hires a small-time Yank smuggler to trace his past. His ulterior purpose is to turn up, and eradicate, old nefarious associates who conceivably might disclose the truth about him to his daughter. The American goes to work, and the murders follow. He too, is marked for extinction, but in the end manages to reach the daughter before Arkadin does, leading him to believe his secret has been revealed, though the truth is otherwise and this is just a ruse to save the Yank's neck. Unexpected by him is that Arkadin would commit suicide (in high Wellesian style) by leaping from a single-engine plane.
Engaging meller it may be, but missing the incisive delineation that marked "Kane." The m�lange of darting narrative simply gets the upper hand�a case of visual virtuosity overwhelming the Arkadin parable. Film's chief virtue is the unity of Welles� outlook�as in "Kane" he does not pass judgment on Arkadin, for again the character is shaped by divergent subjectivity from within the film. But it comes off less effectively.
Part of Welles' achievement is his delightful employment of senior cinema pros to vividly animated parts. Thus, Katina Paxinou and Michael Redgrave excel as Arkadin's estranged wife and a homosexual antique merchant. Ditto Mischa Auer�with the funniest lines�as maestro of a flea circus, and Akim Tamiroff as the comically forlorn onetime Arkadin associate. Caricatures all, and beautiful. Paola Mori is efficient as the daughter, and others appearing to nice advantage include Patricia Medina as the smuggler's corrupt girl, Peter Van Eyck, Suzanne Flon, Jack Watling and Gregoire Aslan.
Credited with editing is Renzo Lucidi, but his contribution would seem academic. Jean Bourgoin�s camera is responsive to Welles, and Paul Misraki�s score is appropriate.