Daily | Orson Welles 100

Orson Welles

Orson Welles

“Film Forum toasts 2015, the centennial of Orson Welles’s birth, with Orson Welles 100, an exhaustive five-week overview of his oeuvre,” reports Andy Webster in the New York Times. “The program kicks off on Jan. 1 with a restored Citizen Kane (1941), about which little more need be said, except that if you’ve never seen it, go. The director William Friedkin introduces it, on Jan. 7, as well as Welles’s 1942 follow-up, The Magnificent Ambersons, on Jan. 9.” The series runs through February 3 and then, from February 7 through 15, the Paley Center for Media will be hosting Orson Welles at 100: On Television, “screening some gems from the Paley Archive of his illustrious but little-known work on TV as director, actor, and raconteur.”

“Other tributes are expected in 2015, including celebrations in Welles’s home state, at the University of Wisconsin–Madison Cinematheque beginning Jan. 24 and at the Wisconsin Film Festival in April,” notes Kristin M. Jones in the Wall Street Journal. “But it was in New York that Welles—impossibly young and fresh from acclaimed Mercury Theatre stage productions—tackled his first professional film project, Too Much Johnson (1938). It was never finished and later lost for decades, but in 2013 a nitrate print of the rough cut was discovered in a warehouse in Pordenone, Italy, electrifying cinéastes…. At Film Forum it will be incorporated into a reading by members of the Film Forum Players, echoing its originally intended stage-and-screen hybrid form.”

“Respected Welles scholar Joseph McBride is serving as a consultant on the Film Forum series,” notes Ray Kelly, who interviews McBride at Wellesnet. One of the questions: “Chimes at Midnight [1965] gets rare public screenings on January 26 and February 1. Was this difficult to arrange?” McBride:

[Film Forum programmer Bruce Goldstein] expects this revival of Chimes to be one of the major events of the retrospective. He obtained what is said to be a newly restored print from the Filmoteca Española…. This film, which Welles considered his finest (I agree), has had shamefully little distribution in the U.S. That is due largely to the animosity of the notoriously idiotic New York Times critic Bosley Crowther, who attacked it twice and discouraged the American distributor, Carl Peppercorn, from doing much with it after the New York opening (as Mr. Peppercorn told me at the time). So it is a film few Americans have seen. Of course, it has reached more of an audience in Europe. And from time to time, DVD copies have been put on sale, so it has been visible to those who seek it out. But it gains much from being seen in all its glory on the big screen. And I always thought that if properly distributed, Chimes could reach both an art house and a more popular audience; it has that dual appeal. At the Town Underground [movie theater in Chicago], it was boffo with both intellectuals from the University of Chicago and elderly winos from off the streets.

In Illinois, Woodstock Celebrates will be throwing a four-day series of events beginning on Welles’s birthday, May 6. The trailer:

More viewing (14’45”). From Jonathan Rosenbaum: “One weekend in 2009, Gabe Klinger invited me to join him in a pilgrimage to Kenosha, Wisconsin, where Orson Welles was born, and where (as we discovered) both of his parents are buried. Out of this emerged a 15-minute video, with interspersed visual and audio clips from The Magnificent Ambersons and F for Fake.”

Meantime, in October, as you’ll recall, it was announced that The Other Side of the Wind will be patched up and released by May 6. Doreen Carvajal in the New York Times: “During the last 15 years of his life, Welles, who died in 1985, worked obsessively on the film, which chronicles a temperamental film director—much like him—who is battling with the Hollywood establishment to finish an iconoclastic work. The supporting cast included Susan Strasberg, Lilli Palmer, Dennis Hopper and Peter Bogdanovich, who basically played himself, a young up-and-coming director.”

More reading (and viewing) here in Keyframe on Welles: Sean Axmaker, Kevin B. Lee, Michael Guillén and Paolo Cherchi Usai on Too Much Johnson, Michael Pattison on The Stranger (1946), a roundup on Othello (1952) and Calum Marsh on The Trial (1963).

Updates, 1/10: Jonathan Rosenbaum‘s posted his essay, “Orson Welles as Ideological Challenge,” in two parts: 1 and 2.

Two recommendations from the L, the first from Jeremy Polacek: “Stylish, well paced, and touched with some terrific, craggy faces, not to mention a standout, fall-down ending, The Stranger [1946] is great as portrait of pressure and the violence it does—to bodies, hearts, and minds.”

And Samantha Vacca on Journey into Fear (1943): “This menacing and atmospheric wartime noir was supposed to be directed by Orson Welles, but is instead credited to [Norman] Foster—all evidence to the contrary. Welles’s influence, from ceiling shot to shadowy staircase, is indisputable. Based on Eric Ambler’s thriller, the film stars Mercury Theatre alum Joseph Cotten (also credited with the screenplay) as Howard Graham, a naval engineer thrust into a continent-spanning Kafkaesque nightmare. Graham’s life is in danger; he’s directed to escape via boat by Turkish head of intelligence Colonel Naki (an always persuasive Welles).”

Update, 1/13: Jonathan Rosenbaum‘s posted another piece on Welles, this one from 2005: “I think he continues to trouble the mainstream largely because his very methods and their implied values—above all, a preference for process over product—continue to pose an ideological challenge to the film industry.

Updates, 1/15: “Though Citizen Kane is generally cited as Welles’s greatest film, the man himself claimed the 1965 Chimes at Midnight was his favorite, and of all the movies Welles made, it may offer the most clues to his imposing pachyderm soul,” writes Stephanie Zacharek in the Voice. “A bold and sensitive melding of text from five of Shakespeare’s plays, Chimes at Midnight traces the friendship—and eventual rift—between young Prince Hal (Keith Baxter), heir to the throne of England, and his roly-poly surrogate father figure, Falstaff (Welles), a ne’er-do-well layabout given to drinking heavily. The picture is by turns joyous and mournful, and features one of the most arresting battle sequences ever put on film, all the more amazing for the fact that Welles shot it—not to mention all of Chimes at Midnight—on a mouse-sized budget in Spain, where he was living at the time…. Every shot is packed with meaning or purpose; Edmond Richard’s cinematography makes the most of sumptuous art deco shards of light, and highlights the soft fold of royal vestments just so.”

Henry Stewart for the L on Richard Fleischer’s Compulsion (1959): “A mashup of Rope, In Cold Blood and Inherit the Wind, this fictionalized retelling of the Leopold and Loeb case charts the plotting of their infamous crime, the police investigation and the subsequent trial, climaxing with a fictionalized Clarence Darrow’s classic cri-de-coeur against capital punishment…. Welles, as ‘Darrow,’ delivers cinema’s most exhausted performance (at least until Stellan Skarsgård’s in Insomnia); baggy-eyed and jowly, with tie loosed and vest unbuttoned, he steals the third act with his sluggish pipe-sucking, wise-cracking and brow-sopping, top-billed even though he doesn’t show up until 67 minutes in.”

Listening (16’12”). Joseph McBride discusses Welles on the Leonard Lopate Show.

Update, 1/19: “Critical successes and box-office failures, peerless technical innovation alongside cynical studio slicing-and-dicing, a man both idolized and exiled—the established narrative of American cinema’s most infamous lone wolf is one of mounting contradictions. For every fawning account of Welles the Master Craftsman, there is a horror story of compromise and breakdown somewhere out there as counterpoint.” Carson Lund introduces Orson Welles, Part One, running at the Harvard Film Archive from January 23 through February 8.

Update, 1/23: For Jake Cole in the L, when it comes to Chimes at Midnight, “best of all is the man himself as Falstaff, bringing all his theatrical chops and cult of personality to a corpulent, arrogant but ceaselessly good-humored companion equally credible as a wizened guide and a relatable peer.”

Updates, 2/21: Spend some time with the Ultimate Orson Welles Timeline. And at Open Culture, Colin Marshall‘s found a list of top ten all-time favorite films that Welles drew up in the early 1950s.

Meantime, a Welles retrospective is on at the Belcourt Theater in Nashville through March 4. In the Scene, Bilge Ebiri writes in his overview: “While he never reclaimed the independence and power of his Kane years, Welles often attained greatness, and at times may even have surpassed that unforgettable debut.”

The Magnificent Orson Welles from Alamo Drafthouse

Update, 4/2: Austin’s Alamo Drafthouse at the Ritz presents The Magnificent Orson Welles, a retrospective opening on April 4 and running through May 25. In the Chronicle, Kimberley Jones surveys the offerings, focusing on Chuck Workman’s Magician: The Astonishing Life and Work of Orson Welles, “a survey of Welles’ films (finished and otherwise), bolstered by archival interviews with Welles and present-day commentary from critics, biographers, and filmmakers, including Richard Linklater, Steven Spielberg, Julie Taymor, William Friedkin, and Welles intimates Henry Jaglom and Peter Bogdanovich. There’s little in Workman’s doc that any pre-existing fan of Welles probably doesn’t already know, but the film effectively compacts the many stages of Welles’ sprawling filmography.”

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