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Monday, October 24, 2011

Directors Who Can Do No Wrong #9: Orson Welles


From an auteurist standpoint, the great directors have the power to transform bad, lackluster, or cliched material into great art. But even the mightiest directors have had a few duds. Robert Altman's Quintet is ignored by almost everyone; stalwart Fordians do not look kindly upon Born Reckless; even the hardcore Hawksians consider Trent's Last Case to be without merit. (There is also some disagreement regarding A Song is Born.) Hitchcock had Juno and the Paycock, and Michael Mann probably doesn't like to think about The Keep.

It's quite rare, then, that a filmmaker (or, occasionally, a filmmaking team) should pitch a no-hitter, from start to finish. Here's a list of ten. For sanity's sake we are grading on a slight curve: feature filmmakers only, their documentary work (if any) doesn't count, nor do their shorts, TV episodes, and "etc" work.

9. Orson Welles

The greatness of Welles was such that he could screw up royally, have a project taken out of his hands, burn professional bridges in a 360-degree roundhouse sweep, sometimes never finish a film at all, and still, the path he cut in the cinematic landscape, from his debut film (Citizen Kane) - a landmark that may have made independent filmmaking an aspirational goal for the first time in history, and continues to inspire young directors to this day - almost all the way up until his death in 1985, would be regarded as the devastating wake of some kind of god. His unfinished work, the mutilated work, the compromised work, is such that, in defiance of our own pre-list caveat, we would rank it with anyone else's best.

The Dreamers (1982)
Introduce yourself to Welles with: Citizen Kane

Master Class: Chimes at Midnight, F for Fake, Citizen Kane, Mr. Arkadin aka Confidential Report, The Magnificent Ambersons, Touch of Evil, The Lady from Shanghai, Othello, The Trial

Deep Cuts: fragments of The Other Side of the Wind, The Dreamers, and Don Quixote; The Spirit of Charles Lindbergh

Citizen Kane (1941)
Tomorrow: Andrei Tarkovsky

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