Friday, May 06, 2005

"He Was Some Kind of a Man"

Ah, if only Blogger headlines could be audio files...



Those chimes you heard at midnight were ringing in the birthday of Orson Welles, the big daddy of Hollywood exceptionalism. Ensconced within the tradition, but a constant gadfly to the same tradition, Welles' directorial career is both a fascinating and a baffling thing to study. Citizen Kane, The Magnificent Ambersons, and Touch of Evil all stand with the all-time bests, and they're entertaining as all get-out. I can imagine someone not cottoning to one of 'em, but it's hard to imagine not liking any of them.

And don't forget Orson the actor: dapper Harry Lime in The Third Man and decrepit Hank Quinlan in Touch of Evil are two of the absolute killer late-breaking character roles in popular cinema, blowing the top off both films. Orson as Hank has gotta be on my short list of best supporting-actor performances ever in an American movie.

At some point this month, I'm'a try to squeeze in his Palme d'Or-winning Othello, which has a pretty love it/hate it reputation, but Orson never threw together a movie that wasn't entrancing, even when it doesn't work. (I still contend that The Lady of Shanghai doesn't work, and my memories of Macbeth aren't so comfy, either.) Still, right up there with Hitchcock, Sirk, Sternberg, and Ophuls, here's a director who perfectly fused pleasure and artifice. You can rent anything from the back-catalogues of helmers like these, and you won't be asking for your money back.

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2 Comments:

Anonymous ModFab said...

Sometime, my friend, you've got to go into detail about why you think THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI doesn't work. I think it's Welles underrated (and misunderstood) masterpiece. Everytime I watch it, it grows more and more compelling.

Totally agree with the Welles praise in general, tho'...maybe the greatest American director in history.

10:25 AM, May 06, 2005  
Anonymous goatdog said...

I'm with you on "The Lady from Shanghai", Nick. The first time I saw it, I thought, well, that was ok. The second time, after some friends told me that I was obviously mistaken about it, I thought, well, that was pretty good. But it's not anywhere near "Touch of Evil" or "Citizen Kane." I will admit here, in public, that I prefer Welles's "The Stranger" to "The Lady from Shanghai."

1:59 PM, May 10, 2005  

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