I Do Movies Badly: Orson Welles

2 May

Tyler Smith rejoins IDMB to discuss the films of Orson Welles, who was actually quite a famous filmmaker (Citizen Kane, Touch of Evil) before he voiced Unicron and was parodied on The Critic. Tyler makes the case for why Welles is and was an essential and path-paving filmmaker, hypothesizes¬†why studio interference makes it difficult to define what “an Orson Welles film” means, and explains why he’s not recommending either Kane or Touch of Evil before recommending The Stranger (1946), Chimes at Midnight (1965), and F for Fake (1973).

5 Responses to “I Do Movies Badly: Orson Welles”

  1. FictionIsntReal May 4, 2017 at 4:48 pm #

    Welles didn’t quit radio once he got into film. He continued to play The Third Man’s Harry Lime in a radio show (and perhaps cast Mercedes McCambridge in a small role in Touch of Evil due to her being his favorite radio actress) called either The Lives or Adventures of Harry Lime (depending on which country it aired in). He also officially wrote for the show, although supposedly he just hired a ghostwriter for everything, and when one confronted him with how much more Welles was getting paid for episodes he didn’t write himself, Welles replied that given the quality of the episodes the ghostwriter was already getting paid more than he deserved. Having listened to all of them, I agree that they are horribly formulaic, and furthermore I think the whitewashing of the Harry Lime character (famously amoral in the film) is a complete betrayal of the film. At the same time, Mr. Arkadin is actually an adaptation of one of the more original episodes.

    In Bram Stoker’s Dracula the villain’s transformation is so far back we scarcely think of him as ever having been human, and the same is true of Murnau & Browning’s adaptations. Attempts to humanize the character and think about the process of transforming to a monster come later (werewolf movies seem to have set the template for that, although Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde was arguably first). On the other hand, in Stoker’s novel Mina expresses some pity for Dracula because he has sold his soul to the Devil (the real cause of his transformation) and being damned forever is the worst fate she can imagine. The film adaptations tend to be less religiously inclined.

    The lying segment of F for Fake was obviously a lie even before he revealed it had been an hour. It’s filmed in a very different style and is a different story which seems to serve as an excuse to include certain shots. Nevertheless, the film as a whole is quite good.

    If Jim has already seen F for Fake, it seems like Tyler should have recommended something different.

    • Battleship Pretension May 8, 2017 at 12:21 am #

      Yeah, you’re right about the radio thing. I guess what I should’ve said is that, though Welles continued to work in other media, once he made KANE, he considered himself first and foremost a “picturemaker”.
      As for sticking with my F FOR FAKE recommendation, I wasn’t sure if I should pivot to something else. But, given that Jim mentioned seeing it a long time ago, I figured I’d stick with it, if for no other reason than for the listener’s benefit.


    • Jim May 9, 2017 at 2:29 pm #

      In Tyler’s defense, he didn’t know that I had seen it until the moment he recommended it to me and, as I tried to clarify in the episode, it was long enough ago where I’m still largely entering it blind. This would not be the first time I’m covering a film that I’ve seen before (In the Mouth of Madness, The 400 Blows, Starship Troopers, et. al) as I always relish the opportunity to see a film I’ve seen before years later to see how my interpretation/response may have changed. That was certainly the case with The 400 Blows.

  2. Ray (@RaySquirrel) May 10, 2017 at 11:37 pm #

    When trying to summarize Welles’s filmmaking style one word kept popping in my head, “oppressive.” Welles’s films thematically and visually are just very oppressive.

    • Jim Rohner May 11, 2017 at 6:19 pm #

      Having just recently completed watching The Stranger, I can say that so far, that assessment is accurate

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