|THE EYES OF ORSON WELLES (director/writer: Mark Cousins; cinematographer: Mark Cousins; editor: Timo Langer; music: Matt Regan; cast: Mark Cousins (Narrator), Beatrice Welles, Orson Welles (on Archive), Jack Klaff (Voice of Welles); Runtime: 115; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Mary Bell/Adam Dawtrey; Dogwoof; 2018-UK)|
brilliant idiosyncratic documentary on the legendary
filmmaker Orson Welles."
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A brilliant idiosyncratic documentary on the legendary filmmaker Orson Welles that's written, directed, photographed and narrated by the Irish filmmaker based in Scotland, Mark Cousins ("I Am Belfast"/"The Story of Film"). It's a warm tribute to Welles as not only a great filmmaker, but a great human being who took brave moral political stands. Welles has been dead for over thirty years (died in 1985). Cousins had never met him but knows his third daughter Beatrice from Arizona through an introduction from Michael Moore, and she asked the film historian to make a film about dad as viewed through his art. She has shared with Cousins her dad's little known art work he was consumed with all his life (he started painting at 9), that consists of doodlings, sketches, water-colors, oil paintings, portraits, landscapes, Christmas cards, and a treasure trove of art. His art is also held at the University of Michigan archive, that was willing to share it with Cousins.
Welles is shown as never seen before through his art work (which I don't think he took that serious), as Cousins narrates by free associating comments from the art on display that may or may not be true. That Welles's many films, from Citizen Kane to Touch of Evil, still resonate today as the best films ever made, speaks highly of his genius as a filmmaker. But his passion for art as a collector and as an artist are not that well known. The showing of his art reveal him as the great visualist filmmaker he was.
We learn of Welles as the Kenosha, Wisconsin resident who was influenced by his Unitarian mom (who died when he was 9), who supported the causes for equal rights and encouraged his intellectual curiosity. As a youth he attended the Art Institute of Chicago. He traveled as a teenager to Ireland and Morocco. In his creative adult life he would make the Hollywood, NY and European scenes as a celebrity and a romantic, and in Europe as someone self-exiled in his later years when Hollywood stopped financing his films.
Also shown are movie clips from films such as The Lady From Shanghai, The Chimes at Midnight, Othello, The Magnificent Ambersons, Mr. Arkadin, Kafka’s The Trial and a Don Quixote film never released. There's also clips from his political activism in the 1930s bringing the play Macbeth to Harlem with an all-black cast.
It's an earnest love letter to Welles, that explores his politics, love life, curiosity about despots and his rich humor. It adds richly to the telling of his story as a legend, but is too indulgent and leaves out too much to be the ultimate Welles biopic.
REVIEWED ON 5/1/2019 GRADE: A-
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
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