Text by Giulia Bocchio
Translation by Elisa Borella
A hundred years ago, in Wisconsin, US, someone destined to be immortal was born.
Someone who made no distinction between evolution and revolution in fields of human interest as arts, radio, theatre and filmmaking, because he maintained and enriched them both.
Someone who, at the age of only 23, through the ‘Worlds’ war’ radio programme, made American people believe to be in the middle of an alien attack.
He unleashed fear and panic.
He became famous. So famous that a contract with RKO motion picture production firm was stipulated and immediately signed, for the creation of one movie each year. Only one clause needed to be followed: complete freedom of expression on the author’s side.
So that, that same someone, at the age of 25, could create ‘Citizen Kane’, the Holy Grail of direction, the best American movie ever produced, one of the most engrossing motion pictures in all history. Incredibly original and imaginative. As its own creator: Orson Welles.
We could say that highlighting all the shadows casted over the genius would end up into a gigantic direction’s work. It would, therefore, take account of his visual gigantism, of the pride inherited from his Magnificent Ambersons, of that hollywoodian dissatisfaction between narrow budgets and meagre profits, of those ghostly getaways between Europe and theatre, of that criticism, harsher than Macbeth’s three Witches. It would also include weddings with some acting, with some performances and divorces with both their iconic image – Rita Hayworth’s Lady from Shanghai, of course –, the C. F. Kane-Welles’ misleading parody, more troubled by the unfinished Don Quixote’s portrait (director-manufacturer’s biggest distress) rather than by the ‘Rosebud’ sled.
However, close to the hundredth anniversary of Orson Welles’ birth – to which the Italian city of Turin dedicated its whole ‘Film Festival’ –, Chuck Workman creates for the first time in forever a documentary on him, using published and previously known material, but with an innovative and unprecedented approach: Magician. The Astonishing Life and Work of Orson Welles.
Perfectly aware of his complicated subject, Workman mixes together famous clips, film footages, TV interviews to the director who broke with all the traditions, and followers’ words that were inspired by him and perpetuated his legacy.
If someone wants to recall the life of an artist this big, it is necessary for him to create a double link towards his audience: on the one hand, seduce the beginners’ curiosity, while on the other, offer to the informed and passionate ones new prompts for critical thought – mixing the two of them up.
With a competent, skillful, but original directing work, and with the sharp but witty eye of the documentary filmmaker, Workman shows us the motion picture’s Magician with the cleverness of a man who knows he did not tell anything new, while not repeating what has already been told.
But this tribute is as honest and whole-heartedly as quick: in Italy, therefore, it will be on screen only on November 30th and December 1st.