Larger Than Life: Orson Welles
Opens March 27, continues into May
The life and career of Orson Welles (1915-1985) sometimes seem to comprise many lives, multiple careers, endless possibilities and just as many hopes dashed. Emboldened by early success and shocking self-confidence, Welles went from whiz kid to has-been perhaps quicker than any boy genius before or since--which for Hollywood is really saying something. But even after the studios effectively barred him from directing--just a few short years after his astonishing debut, CITIZEN KANE, a film ahead of its time then and of enduring genius now--Welles pressed on, went abroad for funding, and still got his films made. Along the way there were partial triumphs and near misses, momentary valedictories and missed opportunities, yet for all the career trouble that followed Welles around (and that which he brought upon himself), his filmography still stands as a testament to greatness, imagination and invention.
This near-complete retrospective of the films of Orson Welles includes several works that provide additional views of Welles, as a larger-than-life character (Richard Linklater's ME AND ORSON WELLES, with Christian McKay as the young Welles), as a scene-stealing actor (Carol Reed's THE THIRD MAN) and as a late-period wizard of creation, though sadly not of completion (the documentary ORSON WELLES: ONE MAN BAND, chronicling his many unfinished projects).
AFI Member passes will be accepted at all films in the Welles series.
ME AND ORSON WELLES
Broadway, 1937: Zac Efron is a stage-struck teenager who lucks into a bit part in the Mercury Theatre's provocative new production of Julius Caesar, directed by and starring a twenty-something force of nature named Orson Welles. Soon Efron is swept up into the world of the Mercury Theatre, meeting producer John Houseman (Eddie Marsan), actors Joseph Cotten (James Tupper) and George Coulouris (Ben Chaplin), and Welles's wise-beyond-her-years assistant Sonja (Claire Danes), who teach him lessons every bit as valuable as those he learns from Welles. Director Richard Linklater wonderfully evokes the world of 1930s Broadway, but it's Christian McKay's celebrated portrayal of Welles that makes the film soar.
DIR/PROD Richard Linklater; SCR Holly Gent Palmo, Vincent Palmo Jr., based on the novel by Robert Kaplow; PROD Ann Carli, Marc Samuelson. UK, 2009, color, 107 min. RATED PG-13
Saturday, March 27, 8:00; Monday, March 29, 8:45; Wednesday, March 31, 8:45
ORSON WELLES: THE ONE-MAN BAND
Guided by Welles's longtime companion and collaborator Oja Kodar, this one-of-a-kind documentary delves into the treasure trove of projects Welles left unfinished in his lifetime, many fragmentary and a few tantalizingly close to completion. Included are breathtaking footage from the legendary THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND, starring John Huston; THE DEEP, with Jeanne Moreau and Lawrence Harvey; Welles as a very moving Shylock in a TV version of THE MERCHANT OF VENICE; Welles and Kodar in Isak Dinesen's THE DREAMERS; Welles's rejected trailer for F FOR FAKE, a movie unto itself; visionary material for a proposed version of MOBY DICK; THE MAGIC SHOW, in which Welles shows off his powers of prestidigitation, and much, much more.
DIR/SCR Vassili Silovic; DIR Oja Kodar; SCR Roland Zag; PROD Pit Riethmueller. Germany/France/Switzerland, 1995, color and b&w, 88 min. In English and German with English subtitles. NOT RATED
Sunday, March 28, 7:15; Tuesday, March 30, 7:00
Already a sensation on stage with his Mercury Theatre and on the radio with THE SHADOW and his infamous THE WAR OF THE WORLDS broadcast, Orson Welles's 1941 screen debut confirmed his genius and, ironically, sealed his fate--none of his other dozen or so feature films, as wonderful as they are, would equal KANE's glory. The story of newspaper mogul Charles Foster Kane's rise and fall is a marvel on every level, not the least for its rueful, ironic resignation to the unknowable nature of its subject. #1 on AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies list, and the perennial holder of the top spot on most lists of the greatest films of all time. "More fun than any great movie I can think of." --Pauline Kael.
DIR/SCR/PROD Orson Welles; SCR Herman J. Mankiewicz. US, 1941, b&w, 119 min. NOT RATED
Friday, April 2, 4:20, 7:00; Saturday, April 3, 7:00; Sunday, April 4, 5:45; Monday, April 5, 9:15; Tuesday, April 6, 7:00
THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS
Welles's follow-up to KANE was an adaptation of Booth Tarkington's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, which chronicled a prominent Midwestern family and their declining fortunes at the onset of the Industrial Age. For many, AMBERSONS ranks right behind KANE as Welles's greatest achievement, with its bravura set pieces (such as the lavish Christmas ball that introduces the ensemble cast, including Joseph Cotten, Agnes Moorehead and Ray Collins, plus former silent star Dolores Costello, ingénue Anne Baxter and RKO Western star Tim Holt). For others, it marks the beginning of the end: unsatisfied with early test screenings, RKO ordered the 131-minute director's cut abbreviated to its present length. The excised footage has never been found and remains a Holy Grail to Welles fans. "Even in this truncated form, it's amazing and memorable." --Pauline Kael
DIR/SCR/PROD Orson Welles; SCR Joseph Cotten, Jack Moss, based on the novel by Booth Tarkington. US, 1942, b&w, 88 min. NOT RATED
Saturday, April 3, 12:30; Sunday, April 4, 12:30; Wednesday, April 7, 6:30
THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI
Footloose Irish sailor Orson Welles gets mixed up in a murder with crooked and disabled lawyer Everett Sloane and his sultry wife, Rita Hayworth (then Mrs. Welles). Byzantine plot combinations ensue--including would-be lovers discussing a murder plot as a shark swims in an aquarium behind them--highlighted by a now-legendary hall-of-mirrors shootout finale.
DIR/SCR/PROD Orson Welles; SCR based on If I Die Before I Wake by Sherwood King. US, 1947, b&w, 87 min. NOT RATED
Friday, April 9, 9:30; Saturday, April 10, 7:00; Sunday, April 11, 9:40; Wednesday, April 14, 9:30; Thursday, April 15, 9:30
JOURNEY INTO FEAR with THE STRANGER
Friday, April 9, 3:45; Monday, April 12, 6:30
JOURNEY INTO FEAR
Tickets only $5!
Though credited to Norman Foster, this breezy, sometimes bizarre semi-spoof of vintage Eric Ambler intrigue was partially directed by Welles to conclude his RKO contract. When an Istanbul nightclub magician takes a bullet meant for him, American arms expert Joseph Cotten flees the city, his passage on a tramp steamer arranged by Welles's Colonel Haki. But also on the boat are three figures from the nightclub: dancer Josette (Dolores del Rio), her partner Gogo (Jack Durant) and the would-be assassin (Jack Moss, Welles' real-life business manager). A battle of wits ensues as the mutually suspicious passengers sort out friend from foe, culminating in a memorable finale.
DIR Norman Foster; DIR/SCR Orson Welles; SCR Joseph Cotten, Ben Hecht, Richard Collins, based on the novel by Eric Ambler. US, 1943, b&w, 68 min. NOT RATED
Saturday, April 10, 1:00
Tickets only $5!
War Crimes Commissioner Edward G. Robinson tracks the supposed mastermind of the Final Solution (the final, most deadly phase of the Holocaust) to a quiet Connecticut village, the home of boys' school professor Orson Welles and his all-American bride Loretta Young, as well a looming 124-foot tall clock tower--the scene of the hair-raising climax. Welles's directorial return after his firing from RKO produced this, his only very profitable film
DIR/SCR Orson Welles; SCR Victor Trivas, Anthony Veiller; PROD Sam Spiegel. US, 1946, b&w, 95 min. NOT RATED
Sunday, April 11, 12:30
Series continues into May, with:
TOUCH OF EVIL
F FOR FAKE
CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT