Thursday, November 22, 2007

Going to the Welles One Too Many Times? Hardly.....

In recent days, I've moved into another one of my side forays into movies and literature, this time involving the great Orson Welles. As I begin to read the first two volumes of the Welles biography written by Simon Callow, and as I move further into watching films from his career that are NOT "Citizen Kane" and "The Third Man" featuring Welles as either actor and/or director and/or producer, I'm really finding myself developing quite an appreciation for the talent he possessed.

After watching "F is for Fake," an early 1970s documentary that Welles created which discussed fakery in art and literature, I commented to Dave that I had a difficult time with it because it was so un-Wellesian. In the ensuing exchange of emails, I was led to the realization that it was very much a Wellesian film -- just not in the same classic 1940s genre in which I had (in my mind) pigeonholed OW. Now that I've gotten him out of the category in which I had boxed him (thanks for the dialogue and new viewpoint, Dave), I'm excited about tackling "F is for Fake" again, along with many other of his later films and documentaries.

Sadly, what so many people in today's generation (and as I'm nearly 40, I feel qualified to talk about today's generation) know Welles for isn't so much this

as it is this

And because of YouTube (as much as I love visiting that website), even more people are becoming familiar with him more as a parody of himself and as a pitchman for wine, fishsticks, and frozen peas than they are as one of the top ten film directors of all time and the creater of what is consistently voted as the greatest American film ever made. Sad that for younger folks, his career has been reduced to these few doing-it-because-he-needed-the-money pitches (and even the now-famous outtakes of him trying to work through a Paul Masson commercial in a drunken stupor).

At the very least, I can make sure my two children have an appreciation for his work -- yet another step in making sure that they are indoctrinated into the world of fine literature, classic film, and great music (I can hear my wife sighing now, knowing what they are in for in the years ahead).


Kansas Bob said...

Maybe I need to watch Kane again.. the first time I had such high expectations.. impossible to meet them.. I came away disappointed.

Dave said...

Bob, you really should try to watch Citizen Kane again. Maybe it would help if you watched a few other films from that period to see just how strikingly different CK is from the usual fare. If you are willing to watch it with a commentary track rather than the soundtrack, that's another way to get some insight on things that might otherwise pass unnoticed.

I understand that the hype can set one up to expect something utterly beyond all other movie-going experiences, but I think that CK is genuinely deserving of the praise it's received over the years. The visuals, the performances, the narrative technique, the story itself (especially seeing it as an piercing commentary on American society from the late 1800's into the late Depression era) - lots of good stuff to discover there! I've watched it numerous times and never get tired of it.

Dave said...

Matt, even Welles' "doing it for the money" efforts were done often in pursuit of his craft. Of course he had a lifestyle to maintain, but a lot of the funds that he raised doing the endorsements were put toward the purpose of financing films that otherwise had little or no backing. I'm glad to read that our correspondence led to a fresh reappraisal of "F For Fake." It's an entertaining film in its own right (I love the sequence of Oja walking down the street and all the captures of the men ogling her! So spot-on in its capturing of human (male) nature!) but also quite indispensable among Welles' works in helping us understand him as a creative force.