Tuesday, 21 August 2018

Film: 'The Eyes of Orson Welles'

You'll need to have at least a modicum of interest and curiosity about the man to stir yourself to see this one. It's something I do have, though it falls short of being fanatical. However, I did find this documentary most interesting, containing a wealth of information about his life I hadn't known.

As the film's title implies it's mainly concerned with the visual aspect of, not only his films (there were more of these than I'd realised - both as director and actor) but also with a huge collection of paintings, sketches (some almost doodles) etc which he left in a box which was only opened and examined years after his death in 1985. It turns out to have been almost a treasure trove of findings, obviously some of more value and significance than others. This film attempts to piece together and bring the strands together relating to the details of his life, his several successive wives, his interests, his travels and, of course, his filmic creations. For the most part it's very fascinating indeed.

One large caveat, though, is the form of the documentary's 'narration' which takes the form of this film's creator, Mark Cousins, talking to (the spirit of?) Welles as though he was present - e.g."You bought a donkey, didn't you? ", "Do you remember this scene, Orson?", "Why did you........?" and so on. Of course all these questions are never answered. You can imagine that to carry on like this all through an almost two hour film could, for many, get to be wearisome, not to say highly irritating. Being forewarned, I just let it wash over me and concentrated on the considerable stuff I hadn't known, and this was its own considerable reward.

There are a number of excerpts from his films, though all very brief - used mainly to illustrate his eye for visuals, in patterns, contrasts in character size, light and shade, decor. background etc - and in that respect one would have to concede that he really was a one-off, which for me is in a positive sense. 
There's shortish dialogue with one of his surviving daughters but what she had to say wasn't as illuminating as Cousins himself puts out as 'narrator'. 

This film has renewed my long-held desire to read Simon Callow's biography of Welles - three volumes published so far with a fourth and final one awaited imminently. I must get down to it before it gets too late. Meantime this film is a welcome appetiser...........6.5

(IMDb...................6.8 / Rott. Toms...................7.8 )


  1. This does sound intriguing ...

    1. If you're one like me who finds Welles to have been an intriguing person you'll get a lot out of this, I'm sure, Bob. However, I think a lot of or even most younger cinema-goers will be saying "Who?"

  2. I've always been interested in Welles, have War of the Worlds on CD, have seen at least all of his major studio-made movies (of course, he made a lot of independent films as well) and even liked him in the commercials he did toward the end of his life. Oh, and he was great on Dean Martin's Celebrity Roasts, so I'm sure I'll find this interesting.

    1. In this film there were a couple of excerpts from that Dean Martin show, Kirk, which I hadn't known of before.
      I've also got that 'War of the Worlds' on audio-cassette, though it's oddly not even given a passing mention.
      I was hoping that YouTube might have some of his films which I wasn't familiar with, or had even heard of, but all I can find is just some few minutes- long snatches. They all look intriguing enough to watch from what this documentary shows. I'm surprised that his 'Chimes at Midnight' has, as far as I know, never been shown on British TV. I've never seen it and been looking out for it for years.
      I can assure you that with your interest in the man you'll get a great deal from this film. Hope you can catch it, preferably on the cinema screen.