|11.10.18||DVD||This Screening is part of event: DVRfest 2018|
Stack 2 position 1: spine 322.
This is one of the bigger DVD boxes in the collection because Criterion, doing what they're famous for, packaged three different cuts of this movie along with the 240-page book that Welles wrote and adapted to film. I probably didn't love this movie enough to go through the commentary tracks and watch all three versions and all that... I just trust the folks at Criterion that whatever led to this "comprehensive" version that I watched were all in an attempt to appease the late Mr. Welles' ideal execution of his project. Welles is such an interesting subject from a cinematic archeology point of view. The back of the book even suggests that it was not exactly Welles who wrote it but "an uncredited English translation of a French text adapted and translated from Welles's writing by a friend and a ghostwriter." If this hadn't come up randomly I might've programmed a double feature with Netflix's newly-finished Other Side of the Wind and its accompanying doc to fully dive into the Welles rabbit hole. For now, though, I finally get to move this off the top shelf.
The movie, much like the story of the making of the film, is nearly incomprehensibly complex. I feel like the most stand-out Welles films, much like Terry Gilliam's oeuvre, are the films where a certain elegance arises out of his baroque genius. While the frame and the narrative are still unbelievably staged with expert attention to detail, the film as a whole becomes understandable on a simple level (rosebud's his innocence of youth). The not-so-successful pictures wind up drowning in the maelstrom of thoughts and ideas that must be a constant state in his brain. Or at least that's what it feels like for me while I'm watching. This movie is like it's on fast forward. Every shot is so involved and jarring, but there's no time to take everything in before there's some new visual stimulus, some new idea presented. The dialogue and story are too complicated and delivered with overwhelming layers of noise and movement that nothing really makes sense, and even as the film goes on and I think I have an understanding of what's going on, I have to second-guess myself that it's really true because everything's so frenetic. But I don't feel like the freneticism is intentional. I think that's just Welles' brain and way of making a movie. Maybe it's just in how I read it... because I feel like every frame is interesting and probably has a deeper meaning but it's just so much that the dots never quite connect.
What I will say is that this has to hit like a billion locations around the world. I can understand why he always had such trouble completing his projects because there's no compromise here. Pre CG, London is really London and those Spanish castles are really there in the background. You have to applaud the effort.
So my reaction to this is pretty mixed. I don't think it's successful as a piece of entertainment, but I do think it's extraordinary in many ways. Sort of like getting glimpses of genius through a fever dream.
Incidentally, I get the same exact feeling from his film essay F for Fake, except there I feel like he nailed that style and tempo. I think F for Fake may end up being my favorite film of his just because I so strongly identify every aspect of that film with what I think of Welles himself.