Orson Welles: One-Man Band (1995, Vassili Silovic)

A catalog-style entry for…

Initiated by Shadowplay

Not just a late film, but a whole compendium of late films: a catalogue of works by Orson Welles during his last twenty years, assembled with stylish fun by Silovic and Oja Kodar, very entertaining and informative. All these years I’ve read Jonathan Rosenbaum championing the late, unreleased works of Welles, I still haven’t been clamoring to see them – I figured I’ve got enough things to watch. But now that I’ve had a taste, the clamoring begins.

It starts, naturally, with magic and stage shows – this wonderful bit of duck hypnosis which I played again and again.

Then Orson’s 1975 acceptance speech for his AFI lifetime achievement award, at which he presented scenes from The Other Side of the Wind.

P. Bog as actor:

Oja introduces herself, says she wants to combat the public opinion that Orson idly spent his time doing voiceovers and liquor commercials, but she only fuels the opinion that he couldn’t finish projects at the end because he was easily distracted by newer, shinier projects. Sure, some of it was sheer bad luck, mostly finance-related, but also the negatives of Merchant of Venice going missing.

That unlabeled can holds the original cut of Ambersons:

Scenes from Filming The Trial are shown, a good opportunity for Welles to speak for himself out of character (or, more accurately, in character as himself).

Oja discusses the great trailer for F For Fake (his final completed feature) and shows half of the trailer, then rifles through paintings and sketches he made.

Monologue readings from Moby Dick: filmed solo performance of select scenes before water-shadowed backdrops. Supposedly the rushes have been edited together and screened in Germany and New York. Please feel free to send them here next.

Don Quixote, which he spent 30 years trying to complete. I haven’t seen Jesus Franco’s version, but despite all the public whining about it, it’s probably better than nothing. Franco had no access to some of the footage, which has since aired on television (and therefore on youtube).

A Winston Churchill-related comedy sketch piece in silhouette, and an embarrassing bit at a hammy tailor shop – these are possibly part of the compilation piece known as London, also edited in Germany. I wonder if the Germans would care to release a DVD.

With tailors Charles Gray (of Dearden’s Man in the Moon and a couple of Bond movies) and Jonathan Lynn (director of Clue, My Cousin Vinny):

A trailer for The Deep, a thriller set on a couple of boats in the middle of the ocean, featuring Jeanne Moreau.

Footage shot for Merchant of Venice. The film was almost completed when part of it went missing.

A desperately lonely-looking Welles performing the missing monologue outdoors on a windy evening.

“I think acting is like sculpture, in other words it’s what you take away from yourself to reveal the truth of what you’re doing that makes a performance … There is no such thing as becoming another character by putting on a lot of makeup.” – spoken by Welles, but similar to what Renoir says in that short with Gisele Braunberger.

More projects: The Orson Welles Show (featuring The Muppets, and available on video):

The Dreamers, which I know little about:

Overall a very useful little doc, which unsurprisingly got me fired up to watch more Welles movies (and to finally read that recent Welles book by Rosenbaum). Unfortunately my follow-up feature, Linklater’s Me and Orson Welles, was much less enlightening.

Afterwards I scouted around online, having a Late-Welles scavenger hunt. I came up with a couple interesting bits. First, a piece of Vienna, as it aired on the Arte channel – a segment of the 1969 One Man Band project. Seems like an unexceptional travelogue, featuring a man who feeds birds, a montage of quick zoom-ins on different cakes (also shown in the Silovic/Kodar doc). A caped and hatted Orson walks through the city scenery, visits a ferris wheel and comments on the Third Man soundtrack, then he and Mickey Rooney perform a magic trick with Senta Berger (of Major Dundee, The Terror of Dr. Mabuse).

Ten minutes of silent screen tests and still photography in preparation for Merchant of Venice, compiled by the Italians – not especially enlightening except to get another look at those long-nosed Eyes Wide Shut masks. I wonder how these tests got out while the film itself remains under wraps: