Review: Magician: The Astonishing Life & Work Of Orson Welles
Director: Chuck Workman
He is the stuff of cinema legend. This dashing, baby-faced thespian, made his voice very loud and clear on the stage, the airways and the big screen. His story is engulfed in infamous studio interferences that arose time and time again on his films. Very few seemed to recognise the genius and creative vitality of this man...
This documentary captures Welles at his most direct, funny and lavish (he died 1985). We hear from his nearest and dearest (his daughters don't talk to each other anymore) and see the man himself in amusing interviews, spliced with archive footage of the classic films. Fellow thespian and biographer of Orson, Simon Callow, gives great insight and quashes any gossip that lingers about him.
Welles was also an easy target in lampooning, due to his large physique and bolstering personality. Whether it's doing cringeworthy adverts that he makes sophisticated, taking eons when shooting films, or just coming across as great big buffoon, he could never tarnish his reputation. After all, how many artists can claim to have made the greatest film of all time and also the most infamous radio broadcast in history?
His output is certainly sporadic, but we see his finer side in the Shakespeare adaptations (I never knew he played Falstaff on film), the immortal Citizen Kane and the utterly gripping Touch of Evil. If the right people had come into his life, his work would not be so lopsided.
Here, we see a man so determined to succeed that it cost him wives, children and great financial losses. But he kept going and found successes along the way. Though not as many as he should have had.
A true magician of cinema.
Rating: 4 stars
Chapter Arts Centre this month celebrate Orson Wells in a season of his films and radio work. Free tickets for his Mercury Theatre radio plays: War of the Worlds, Dracula and Sherlock Holmes. Films screenings feature Citizen Kane, The Lady from Shanghai, Touch of Evil and The Magnificent Ambersons.
Photo credit: Screenshot from The Third Man featured in the documentary trailer.