François Reichenbach & Frédéric Rossif – Portrait: Orson Welles (1968)

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A famous French documentary director has chosen to match his talents with those of a powerful subject who talks on his youth, his formative years, his life and work. Reichenbach on Welles on Welles, one might say.

These recollections help to explain something of the creative processes of film making, comparing the behaviour of Welles the director and Welles the man. Orson at home, Orson interviewed at the Cannes Festival, Orson shooting a scene with Jeanne Moreau… Orson in portrait. No less. (MIFF) Continue reading

Orson Welles – The Tragedy of Othello: The Moor of Venice (1952)

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Want to be daring? Try watching Othello without the sound. The assembly of magnificent compositions that Welles has put together for his Othello is nothing short of astounding. Welles finds angles where they never existed before and extracts from the text, so elegant in word, a visual power unmatched by other Shakespearean movies. The heritage from Citizen Kane to Touch of Evil is evident in this stylistic tour-de-force.

Welles is an imposing Othello. Painted with shadows and light, Welles moves regally through the castle sets and strides powerfully along the beach or atop the ramparts. As Iago, Michael Mac Liammoir, the Irish stage actor, is quite creepy. His vast stage experience perhaps affects his performance in front of the camera too much, but the result is highly effective under Welles’ guiding camera and brilliant editing. Continue reading

Orson Welles – Around the World with Orson Welles (1955) (HD)

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Sean Axmaker, Keyframe wrote:
When handed the raw materials from an unfinished documentary about Elmyr de Hory, an art forger whose life was being written up by biographer Clifford Irving, Orson Welles took the opportunity to make something far beyond the concept of the traditional documentary. F for Fake has been called the Orson Welles’ first essay film, a true enough statement if you limit the accounting to feature films, but he had been doing short-form non-fiction since 1955, when he made Around the World with Orson Welles (a.k.a. Around the World) for British television. Continue reading

Orson Welles – The Merchant of Venice – Costume Tests (1969)

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This short clip (10mins) features colour footage shot of costume tests for Welles unfinished project “The Merchant of Venice” from 1969 and whilst there is no sound to the footage, the music is part of a score that Welles had commissioned for “The Merchant of Venice” by Angelo Francesco Lavagnino. Continue reading

Orson Welles – Vérités et mensonges aka F for Fake [+extras] (1973)

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There were plenty of advantages to living in Paris in the early 1970s, especially if one was a movie buff with time on one’s hands. The Parisian film world is relatively small, and simply being on the fringes of it afforded some exciting opportunities, even for a writer like myself who’d barely published. Leaving the Cinémathèque at the Palais de Chaillot one night, I was invited to be an extra in a Robert Bresson film that was being shot a few blocks away. And in early July 1972, while writing for Film Comment about Orson Welles’s first Hollywood project, Heart of Darkness, I learned Welles was in town and sent a letter to him at Antégor, the editing studio where he was working, asking a few simple questions—only to find myself getting a call from one of his assistants two days later: “Mr. Welles was wondering if you could have lunch with him today.” Continue reading

Orson Welles – The Orson Welles Sketchbook (1955)

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Orson Welles’ BBC series is basically a bunch of monologues by Welles, with some illustrations by Welles, about — theatre; theatre critics; voodoo magic used to kill theatre critics; bullfighting; customs officers; the false nose; and many other topics, all connected to Welles’ career in film, theatre and radio.

Very very funny, charming as hell, and an absolute must for Wellesians. Continue reading

Orson Welles – Campanadas a medianoche AKA Falstaff – Chimes at Midnight (1965)

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Orson Welles‘ (“Citizen Kane”) black and white low-budget film ingenuously chronicles the life of the fictional Shakespearean character named Falstaff (Orson Welles) in the period of 1400 to 1413. It’s lifted from five Shakespearean plays and Holinshed’s chronicles. This personal reading of English history is laced with nostalgia for “old” England as a merry place (shot on location in Spain) and mostly covers the two parts of Henry IV that revolve around the changing relationship between Falstaff and Prince Hal (Keith Baxter), the future king. Sir Ralph Richardson provides the narration for the tragi-comedy that speaks in modern terms to a contemporary audience about those who become driven by power. It’s a delightfully playful rip at history and the traditional way of filming Shakespeare that wisely mixes slapstick and tragedy, as the hero is both a clownish and tragic figure with the filmmaker’s sympathies clearly lying with the brokenhearted Falstaff after rejection by his former companion who when king heartlessly tells him “I know thee not old man.” Welles accomplishes this Shakespeare treatment in his own unique style, using his trademark low angle camera shots and deep focus cinematography, but without changing a word of the bard’s dialogue. Continue reading