Monday, August 04, 2008

What ever Happened to Orson Welles?


I've been reading the book What ever happened to Orson Welles? It's written by Joseph McBride, and he has a history with Welles as did Peter Bogdanovich who eventually wrote several books about Welles and his films. What struck me about this book is that it is about Welles last 25 years. It's about what he was doing, and his tenacity for creating uncompromising films. Some of it is sad, while other parts are very revealing and quite inspiring. I came across this clip on YouTube and was pretty excited to see it since in the book McBride discusses the making of "The Other side of the Wind". It is even listed in Filmmaker magazine in the category of the Top 10 Greatest Movies That Were Never Finished.

I'm a big fan of Welles' earlier works. Citizen Kane, The Magnificent Ambersons, and A Touch of Evil are all classics in my book, so I was very interested in hearing about his later years.

It seems as though Welles struggled throughout his later years, yet he was always busy. An interesting note is that Gary Graver became an important person in Welles life. In fact so much so that I believe it is Graver who was responsible for shooting and producing Welles' later films. Graver and his wife had been trying to resurrect "The Other side of the Wind" since Welles' death, but only coming close once with Showtime. Now that Graver as well as his wife have passed away I'm afraid that the public will NEVER see Welles last big film. From what the book explains only a few shots remain to be filmed. Most of the actors have even passed away, so I'm afraid this clip above is the only thing we'll see for now.

It made me think how great Welles would have LOVED the video revolution. In the book McBride does say something about it, and quotes Welles:

"Always pushing the bounds of cinematic technique, Welles said in his 1982 appearance at the Cinematheque francaise, "I'm very interested in making films with video - we've been experimenting with it just now." As far back as the shooting of Citizen Kane he had wondered aloud why it was necessary for film to go through a camera, and his great cinematographer Gregg Toland, just as much a visionary, predicted that some day the image would be transmitted electronically, bypassing film entirely.

Welles declared at the Cinematheque that it would be only a few years or even a few months, before "we will be using tape with greater facility then we use film today and with the same definition... I like the look of the video very much and I like video sound even though it's bad - probably what's why - and I love the control that I have over color and many other things." But he cautioned that whether or not video became a "new form" would be up to the new generation of filmmakers: "There is a great temptation to use the electronic world as a cheap form of movies. It's in your hands."

All in all I enjoyed the book. I didn't like the explanation sometimes of how or why a scene didn't work in a particular movie. I was more interested in Welles method of work then why something may or may not have worked. After all that's all subjective, and I'll draw my own conclusions after I see the film.

Welles was a fascinating artists and one that I like very much. The book is inspirational when we hear how Welles struggled to put projects together. Welles was busiest until he died, and it's a testament at an artist who didn't compromise, and who was a genius that Hollywood shunned. Orson you'll always be awesome to me.

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