Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Orson Welles’

The Third Man-1949
Here I shall give three scenes which stay on mind.

The American pulp writer Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten) has come to bombed-out, post-war Vienna on the invitation of his friend Harry Lime (Orson Welles) but is told of his death under most mysterious circumstances. One night, Martins becomes aware of a figure in a doorway on the opposite side of the apartment of Lime’s girlfriend Anna Schmidt (Alida Valli). He spots her cat meow loudly. The animal rubs itself at the feet of the silent, motionless figure in the shadows of a doorway. Harry can see the big shoes of the figure picked out by slanting light. A mystery figure and he defiantly calls out to the figure to come out and reveal himself. Then, Holly momentarily and suddenly sees Harry, the ‘third man’ himself.
A light from an upstairs window briefly illuminates the figure’s face, shining straight across the street. The sight of the teasing, smiling face of his friend staring back at him packs a punch in the somber mood of the film. It lights up briefly Holly’s confused mind at a loss to explain the sudden demise of his friend. Amazed to see Harry still alive the viewer is given jab into sides hinting he being alive could only mean there is something evil in the air. Holly is startled and then the light is extinguished. Before Holly can reach his friend, a car approaches and blocks his path. The figure makes off and vanishes to the sound of retreating footsteps in the dark. Holly finds the doorway empty by the time he crosses the street.
Another scene that stays in my mind is the meeting of Lime and Holly atop a Ferris wheel above the Russian sector. In the light of the day, Lime emerges and greets Holly with a bemused look: “Hello, old man, how are you?” They both ride high above the ground on the ferris wheel that is still operating in the midst of the dark city – it is the last ride of Holly’s symbolic childhood. As they rise higher in the car which they have all to themselves, Harry shows how uncaring he can be about Anna’s predicament after betraying her to the Russians: “What can I do, old man? I’m dead, aren’t I?” Harry explains how he doesn’t wish to be a hero:

What did you want me to do? Be reasonable. You didn’t expect me to give myself up…’It’s a far, far better thing that I do.’ The old limelight. The fall of the curtain. Oh, Holly, you and I aren’t heroes. The world doesn’t make any heroes outside of your stories.

Holly confronts Harry with his disgust at his racketeering and corruption (the light side exposing the dark side) and how he has already informed the police and Anna about Harry’s charade and disappearance. Harry claims immunity in the neutral zones of Vienna. Knowing of his cynical dealings on the black market, Holly asks if he has ever seen any of his victims – children who populate the hospital wards [in a city and amusement park desolate of playful, happy children]. Harry looks contemptuously down from the ferris wheel at the scuttling mortals below, cheerfully calling the people unrecognizable “dots” from the height of the ride:

Victims? Don’t be melodramatic. (He opens the door to the car.) Look down there. Would you really feel any pity if one of those dots stopped moving forever? If I offered you 20,000 pounds for every dot that stopped, would you really, old man, tell me to keep my money? Or would you calculate how many dots you could afford to spare? Free of income tax, old man, free of income tax. The only way you can save money nowadays.

They reach the very top of their ride on a child-oriented attraction, and for a few ominous moments [in a very different kind of amusement-thrill ride], Harry threatens Holly. He contemplates executing his uncooperative friend and making him one of the “dots” below because he is the only one with living proof of his existence: “There’s no proof against me, besides you.” Harry suggests that he could easily shoot him – a bullet hole in a corpse that had fallen from so high up in the wheel would not be found. Holly wraps his arm around a door frame and clutches it for protection:

Holly (looking out the window): I should be pretty easy to get rid of.
Harry: Pretty easy.
Holly: I wouldn’t be too sure.
Harry: I carry a gun. You don’t think they’d look for a bullet wound after you hit that ground.

But Holly counters the threat by mentioning that the police are already on his trail – they have dug up the corpse and discovered it wasn’t him but Harbin. Harry is startled that the body of his cohort has been disinterred and his voice suddenly drops. As the car starts its journey downward, Lime closes the door, discards his deadly plan to dispose of Holly, and then compares himself to governments:

Harry: Nobody thinks in terms of human beings. Governments don’t. Why should we? They talk about the people and the proletariat, I talk about the suckers and the mugs – it’s the same thing. They have their five-year plans, so have I.
Holly: You used to believe in God.
Harry: Oh, I still do believe in God, old man. I believe in God and Mercy and all that. But the dead are happier dead. They don’t miss much here, poor devils. (He traces Anna’s name and the image of a heart with an arrow through it on the window of the car.) What do you believe in? Oh if you ever get Anna out of this mess, be kind to her. You’ll find she’s worth it.

When they reach the end of their ride and exit the ferris wheel on the ground, Lime offers his boyhood pal a partnership in his illicit business:

Holly, I’d like to cut you in, old man. There’s nobody left in Vienna I can really trust, and we’ve always done everything together. When you make up your mind, send me a message – I’ll meet you any place, any time, and when we do meet old man, it’s you I want to see, not the police. Remember that, won’t ya? Don’t be so gloomy. After all, it’s not that awful. Remember what the fellow says:

Then, he smugly delivers his famous and cynical monologue ad libbed by Welles and exactly in line with the whole mood of the film. The amoral Lime cynically justifies his black market criminal activities by recognizing that despite appearances, good and evil (black and white, peace and war, up and down, etc.) are complementary concepts. He puts his thesis in historical context:

In Italy for thirty years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, bloodshed – but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love, 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock. So long, Holly.
The final closing sequence of the film is just as memorable: Holly leans on a cart and waits on the tree-lined cemetery road for Lime’s former lover Anna as she leaves Harry’s second funeral on foot. Off in the distance, she is walking and approaching toward him, first a dot, then a shadow, and then a full figure – in an extremely long-held stationary shot. As he seeks in vain for any response from her, she stoically ignores him and continues by, passing him without paying any attention – without a pause, a look, a word, or a gesture. Holly follows her with his eyes, but she stares impassively ahead, walking out of his life. He lights a cigarette as the film fades to black.
(Ack:filmsite.org-tim dirks)

Read Full Post »

The idea of conflict between good and evil is central to this film and the US-Mexico divide in which the drama is played out merely is a geographical divide, and not necessarily to be taken for a moral divide. Having said this let me introduce Mr. Big and he is evil incarnate and he is also a pro. Quinlan exudes the stench of corruption from every pore of his distended, heaving carcass, yet his fellow officers are in awe of him because of his reputation. He short-cuts moral quotient if he could attain his ends. Thus he is also a pragmatist. The twist is that his outlook has been poisoned since the brutal murder of his wife, decades ago. The constant pain fuels a personal vendetta. This is, of course, no excuse, but it does partly explain the prejudice of Quinlan. Enter the Mexican lawmen Ramon ‘Mike’ Vargas and given an international incident and an unsolved crime the stage is set for sparks to fly. Both Vargas and Quinlan have reputations to protect and when it comes down to a one-on-one duel, both are willing to get their hands dirty. Now all it requires is the genius of Orson Welles to give the film its impact and enduring appeal.

The film opens with its most famous sequence. It’s an audacious, incredible, breathtaking, three-minute, uninterrupted crane tracking shot under the credits (appearing superimposed on the left of the screen). The entire tracking shot covers four blocks from start to finish. In a close-up, hands set an explosive, timed device. A shadowy figure runs and places it in the trunk of a parked convertible. The pounding of bongo drums and blare of brass instruments are heard (Henry Mancini’s score), accompanied by the ticking-tocking of the mechanism on the soundtrack. The camera pulls away sharply, identifying the car’s location – it is parked on a street in a seedy Mexican border town. An unsuspecting, wealthy American man – Rudi Linnekar (the boss of the town) and his giggling, blonde floozy, mistress/girlfriend [later, we learn she is a striptease dancer named Zita] emerge out of the background darkness and get into the car, driving off through the streets toward the US-Mexican border about four blocks away.
Through the tawdry streets Linnekar and Zita roll, until the camera smoothly picks up their passing by Mexican lawman Ramon “Mike” Vargas (Charlton Heston) and his new wife Susan (Janet Leigh). As the newly-weds cross over the border, into the US, they catch up and overtake the automobile. Just a few steps more and the car explodes in a ball of flame, casting harsh shadows. Unfortunately this is an international incident since the bomb was set in Mexico and detonated in America.
Honeymoon plans of Vargas and his wife are now ruined and he sends her to the hotel to await him while he wants to assist the local cops who have arrived at the scene. The cops are awaiting Quinlan (Orson Welles). When he finally arrives from his ranch, with his side-kick Pete Menzies (Joseph Calleia), the dead man’s daughter Marcia Linnekar (Joanna Moore) comes in to identify the remains of her father but Quinlan seems disinterested, dismissing her (with a tail). Finally turning to his fellow officers, after appraising and disregarding Vargas, Quinlan’s twitching nose takes them onto the Mexican side.
Meanwhile, Susan has been waylaid on the way to the hotel by smooth-looking Pancho (Valentin De Vargas), one of the Grandi boys. Allowing herself to be led to greasy crime-boss “Uncle Joe” Grandi (Akim Tamiroff), puts on a brave face. Since his brother is being investigated by Vargas, he wants him to lay off – a request which cuts no ice with Susan. Her husband hasn’t got much time to think about this development though because Quinlan is hot on the trail of a suspect and Vargas wants to be present. The hunch concerns Manelo Sanchez (Victor Millan), a poor Mexican worker who became involved with Marcia, severely upsetting her father. Thus Sanchez had the motive, which is enough for Quinlan. However the discovery of some damning evidence by Pete seals the case, but disturbs Vargas. He is certain that Quinlan is framing Sanchez, though he’ll have to gather some solid proof if he is to prove this (which means leaving Susan to make the best of her situation.)

We see a stunning portrait of corruption and abuse of power in the hulk of Orson Welles. As I said earlier the opening shots sets the mood and tone. Having introduced main characters early on Welles doesn’t slacken his control over its development. This technical brilliance, flaunted so early, is a driving force, opening the door to extensive range of camera angles and superb editing. Links between separate scenes are established with connecting motifs, such as doors opening or a shared musical theme. When combined with the advanced level of spatial choreography (so that every position and movement latches together into a cogent whole), the result is an extraordinary piece of film-making. There is a greater fluidity in his direction helped firmly by the strong theme and acting.

Lastly, the bizarre casting choices made for Touch of Evil show, in retrospect, a certain genius. Welles is perfect, dominating and beyond reproach, sometimes looming over the screen and sometimes shrunken like a doll. In opposition, Heston and Leigh are excellent as the disturbed newly-weds. However, special mentions must be made of Marlene Dietrich, the gypsy fortune-teller Tanya, Dennis Weaver, the motel clerk, Mercedes McCambridge, a butch gang member, and Zsa Zsa Gabor. This eclectic group of performers forms the broad-sweep of this frontier town, a setting where the weird is commonplace and disparate cultures clash. All of this gives Touch of Evil a deliciously tangy flavour, a film noir at its best. Given the unexpected opportunity to direct( since Citizen Kane had sent him to the dog-house as far as Movie moghuls were concerned), Welles grabbed the opportunity and created a masterpiece (foxing the studio executives). As usual he messed up during the editing stage, by letting the film out of his hands (cf. The Magnificent Ambersons), but now we have the chance to see his vision in all of its electrifying glory.
The version of the film that was released in 1958 with 93 minutes of running time (later revised and restored with 15 minutes of additional scenes in 1976), was disowned by director Welles, who was paid $125,000 to direct, re-write, and star in the film. Before its release by Universal International Pictures, some scenes were reshot, and the film was edited, cut and bastardized without his full approval, while he was out of town working on another project.
In 1998, the film was re-edited and/or restored based upon creator Welles’ original, newly-discovered 58 page memo of editing instructions to Universal International boss Ed Muhl. The new version did not contain new footage, but was a reconstructed “quasi-director’s cut” with re-organized, cross-cut scenes (with a total of about 50 changes). The most impressive change was that the legendary opening shot (described below) was seen without obscuring, super-imposed credits, and the blaring, distracting Henry Mancini background music during the elaborate scene was stripped away and replaced by natural source music (from doorways of dives the couple passes, or from car radios). The credits were re-positioned at the end of the sequence. Other changes included: repaired torn shots, restored sound quality, excision of “explanatory scenes” added by the studio, re-positioning and trimming of scenes, and restoration of originally-cut footage. The re-edited version, the fourth version of the film, now runs 111 minutes (compared to 93 minutes in the earliest version).(ack)
Compiler: benny

Read Full Post »

CITIZEN KANE- 1941

Running Time: 119 minutes, USA , Black and white

Citizen Kane was the astounding directorial debut of Orson Welles, made when he was just 25. It tops the AFI 100 best films list and is widely considered to be the greatest movie of all time. More than 60 years after it was first made it is still revered as the classic American film.

Citizen Kane opens with a brooding exterior shot focusing in on the letter ‘K’, wrought into the ironwork atop the gates of Xanadu, a rich man’s castle in Florida. We see, through fog, the grounds of this vast pleasure palace with exotic animals in a private zoo, empty gondolas moored on a private lake, an Egyptian cat statue guarding a raised drawbridge over a moat. There are signs of neglect everywhere. Successive shots draw us into a castle window where a light is extinguished and a figure can be seen on the bed in the dimly lit interior. Snowflakes fill the screen and we zoom out to reveal a snow covered house in a glass ball in the hand of the old man on the bed. His lips pronounce a dying utterance:

Rosebud...

The dead hand releases the globe and it shatters on the marble floor.

Citizen Kane tells the life story of super-rich press baron, Charles Foster Kane. Kane is a fictitious character but bears so many similarities to the real life William Randolph Hearst that his newspapers boycotted the film. In fact, the Kane character was a composite of many arrogant and powerful media magnates and unlike the real Hurst, was born in relative poverty. He was arrogant and not always right.

A reporter (William Alland) is assigned to uncover the mystery of Kane’s dying word. He hears Kane’s story from five different points of view and we also see mock newsreel footage of moments from the great man’s life.
By the end of the film, the Rosebud mystery has not been solved. We return to Xanadu to see a panorama of crates and junk, the debris of the multi-millionaires acquisitive life. A workman selects an old child’s sled and slings it into the furnace. The camera zooms as the flames blister the paint and the word ‘Rosebud’ is burned away. We recognize this as the sled Kane was playing with when his parents sent him away as a child. Kane’s childhood memories curl into the smoke that billows out of the chimney. The camera pulls back and we end with the same wrought iron gates with which we began.
Kane wanted love at his terms and lost. Chalk it to his vanity and ambitions that came with his position in life; With all the wealth and its glory at his reach he lost all that he really cared for: a carefree childhood ( represented by his sled).
Trivia:By the way ‘Rosebud’ as Hollywood gossip would have it referred to the private part of Hearst’s mistress, Marion Davis.

Quotes:
I’ve talked with the responsible leaders of the Great Powers – England, France, Germany and Italy. They’re too intelligent to embark on a project, which would mean the end of civilization as we now know it. You can take my word from it; there’ll be no war!
~Kane (Welles) in newsreel from 1935
“- a picture that was not only more innovative than any since The Battleship Potemkin, but one that matures with age and speaks afresh to each succeeding generation.”
~ Barry Norman, 100 Best Films of the Century
Additional background info:

In 1938, Welles had made a sensational radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds, a story by science fiction pioneer and near namesake, H. G. Wells. The broadcast was taken for genuine news by some and people were driven onto the streets in panic. This made him such a hot-property that his contract with RKO allowed him a freedom in production that Hollywood was never to grant him again.

Welles brought his Mercury Theater group to the film but also had the sense to surround himself with some of the industry’s most talented. Notably, he recruited cinematographer Greg Toland, who had worked on The Grapes of Wrath, to his team. Together with co-writer Herman Mankiewicz, Welles created the script – originally to be called “The American”.

Toland’s deep focus photography is legendary in this movie, as were the sets that included real ceilings. Welles had holes dug in the studio floor so that the camera could be mounted low enough to get the low angled point of view, used so effectively in the succession of breakfast scenes that milestone the breakdown of Kane’s first marriage. Orson Welles’ own performance skillfully followed the young Kane into old age. He directed other actors to a splendid ensemble performance. He tore up a few rules, appropriated a few revolutionary screen techniques and created a masterpiece.

benny

CITIZEN KANE (1941)
Director: Orson Welles
Charles Foster Kane: Orson Welles
Jedediah Leland: Joseph Cotten
Susan Alexander: Dorothy Comingore
Mr. Bernstein: Everett Sloane
Mary Kane: Agnes Mooreheaed
Walter Parks Thatcher : George Coulouris
Boss J.W. “Big Jim” Gettys: Ray Collins
Jerry Thompson: William Alland
Raymond: Paul Stewart
Kane aged 8: Buddy Swann
Signor Matiste: Fortunia Bonanova
Academy Awards
Won (1) * Best Original Screenplay (Herman J. Mankiewicz, Orson Welles)
Nominated (9)
* Best Picture
* Best Original Screenplay
* Best Director
* Best Actor (Orson Welles)
* Best Cinematography
* Best Art Direction
* Best Music
* Best Sound Recording
* Best Film Editing

Read Full Post »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,390 other followers