The Dominici Affair
The Dominici Affair is a documentary based around a lost episode of Welles' Around the World With Orson Welles television series, which was a brief 1955 series of shows in which Welles traveled to various locations in Europe and presented viewers with a taste of the local color, as it were. The episode featured on this DVD, The Tragedy of Lurs, stands out from the others in that it has a more solid narrative, instead of the more scattershot feel of the other episodes. Unfortunately, Welles did not complete the film, perhaps due to government pressure (this is never really explained), as the case was still a touchy issue in France at the time.
The story revolves around the 1952 murder of two British tourists and their 10-year old daughter. The adults were shot; the daughter was bludgeoned to death with the gun when the shooter ran out of bullets. The patriarch of the farm where the family had slept (technically, it appears they were trespassing, although they were hardly dangerous types) was arrested for the murders and sentenced to life imprisonment and was later freed on compassionate grounds shortly before his death.
The DVD, released by Image Entertainment (who also released the Around the World disc), is, as I said above, built around what remains of Welles' original short. Several elements of the show are missing, most importantly Welles' own commentary sequences, as well as parts of the soundtrack. The film has been restored and looks good, although occasional small flaws are still there.
The film itself is sandwiched between documentary sequences which set up the story of how Welles got involved in making the film, featuring fascinating interviews with the journalist who appears in the film, Jacques Chapus, and the director of photography, Alain Pol. Pol explains more of the technical details of making the film, while Chapus discusses how he helped Welles explain the case to viewers and Welles himself.
As to the film itself, I honestly found it a little dull. For a grisly triple murder story, we get a lot of interview sequences that go on too long, particularly one with a friend of the family that just drags endlessly. I think a large part of this problem may be the loss of Welles' commentary bits, which would have helped to break up some of the monotonous interview material. Also, having Chapus stand and simply tell what happened gets somewhat tiresome as well, although he at least is rather animated.
Another problem is the lack of real depth to the story; none of the Dominici clan have much to say of interest; they're mostly taciturn folk. There seems to be much that isn't said, and the assumed guilt of the elder Dominici is never really questioned, even though there are apparently some who still believe he was innocent. Welles is spoken of at one point as wanting to compare the miserable lives of these peasants to that of the more well-off citizens, but where this idea comes from, I'm not sure. Welles really doesn't get into this in the surviving footage, but it certainly sounds like something he would have been interested in.
The Image DVD is overall of very good quality; the picture is largely flawless and the sound is adequate for the material at hand. The only real error is in the menu, where "Welles" is spelled "Wells." The disc is reasonably priced at $19.99, and online shoppers will no doubt be able to find it cheaper than that with discount pricing. The Dominici Affair may not be a landmark in Welles' career, but it's an interesting piece of the puzzle nonetheless.
The Dominici Affair: 52 minutes; color/black & white; English and French w/English subtitles; full screen format; NTSC; Dolby digital mono sound; catalog #ID0519EUDVD