Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Calling Orson

at twenty-one or twenty-two so many things appear solid and permanent and terrible which forty sees are nothing but disappearing miasma. Forty can’t tell twenty about this; that’s the pity of it! Twenty can find out only by getting to be forty. (Booth Tarkington, The Magnificent Ambersons)
At eighteen or nineteen I saw Citizen Kane and The Magnificent Ambersons for the first time. You know, the greatest film ever made, and the greatest film ever destroyed by studio cuts. Neither really helped to explain their creator: Orson Welles swaggered in the first, fully in control of a new, wildly ambitious kind of film, bristling with virtuosity and confidence. The second seemed, at the time, a third rate melodrama, mitigated only slightly by its nice camera angles. Soon afterwards I saw him again, on a repeat of Michael Parkinson’s 1974 interview, the 26-year-old boy wonder of 1941 inflated into an unrecognisably grey, podgy 59 (only 59! He looked much older). The interview was fascinating in a way neither film managed, Orson emerging as a vulnerable, infinitely generous raconteur, modest to a fault, and expansive in a thoughtful and endearing way. As he spoke the mannerisms and expressions of Kane lit up the face of this prematurely aged man, it was very moving. I wrote a song about it, which you can hear near the end of Pomp and Circumstance. In the midst of some recent Welles-related repeats on BBC4, I thought to look up the 1974 interview on YouTube, and the whole thing is there.

Also more highly recommended than I know how: Orson Welles – The One Man Band

No comments:

Blog Archive