Thursday, July 4, 2013

Orson Welles, genius and asshole

Orson Welles,  as this New Yorker article explains, had a series of lunches with director Henry Jaglom that were recorded for posterity. Transcripts of those lunch discussions have now been released as a book.

Robert Anton Wilson loved Welles work, particularly "F Is For Fake." Excerpt from the New Yorker article, Welles talking about "F Is For Fake":

The tragedy of my life is that I can’t get the Americans to like it…. Anyway, I think, “F for Fake” is the only really original movie I’ve made since “Kane.” You see, everything else is only carrying movies a little further along the same path. I believe that the movies—I’ll say a terrible thing—have never gone beyond “Kane.” That doesn’t mean that there haven’t been good movies, or great movies. But everything has been done now in movies, to the point of fatigue. You can do it better, but it’s always gonna be the same grammar, you know? Every artistic form—the blank-verse drama, the Greek plays, the novel—has only so many possibilities and only so long a life. And I have a feeling that in movies, until we break completely, we are only increasing the library of good works. I know that as a director of movie actors in front of the camera, I have nowhere to move forward. I can only make another good work.

And here is a transcript of one of the conversations. Very gossipy. Excerpt:

Richard Burton comes to the table.

Richard Burton: Orson, how good to see you. It’s been too long. You’re looking fine. Elizabeth is with me. She so much wants to meet you. Can I bring her over to your table?

O.W.: No. As you can see, I’m in the middle of my lunch. I’ll stop by on my way out.

Burton exits.

H.J.: Orson, you’re behaving like an asshole. That was so rude.

I also liked the conspiracy theory Welles offered about Carole Lombard's plane being shot down by Nazi agents.

(Hat tip: Eric Wagner, first article, and Jesse Walker, I think, second).


Roman Tsivkin said...

RAW got me into Welles (I suspect he did that to many folks), and I've watched F for Fake five or six times -- I always find something new in it.

fyreflye said...

I've seen F Is For Fake a couple of times and thought it clever but in no way an advance on "Kane." But I'm always willing to watch it again, and if you're into Amazon Streaming Video you can, for $2.99 3-day rental, watch it too:

fyreflye said...

I see I got the title wrong.
Maybe it'll stick after the third viewing this evening.
Now I'm wondering if Amazon Streaming Video carries Mr Arkadin too.

michael said...

RAW made comments - sometimes extensive ones - on every Welles project that I know of (except the hundreds of films and commercials OW did to make money to finish his latest film). RAW seemed fascinated by OW for not only being a multi-perspectival proto-postmodern "who knows what the truth really 'is'?" artist, but the psychedelic nature of his visual style (see the essay on "Touch of Evil" and cannabis in CT3 and/or the observations on the psychedelic ending of Lady From Shanghai in CT2, p.117), and for Welles's magickal workings. (Note RAW's admiration for Welles's boy-genius radio prank.)

Also: Welles seems to represent yet another character that Pound cared about: the great artist who works under the plight of what Bucky Fuller called LAWCAP, or lawyer-run capitalism.

When RAW met Arlen she was writing radio scripts for "The Lives of Harry Lime."

Odd note: not long ago I watched a Charlie Rose interview with James Watson, co-discoverer of the helical structure of DNA, and he said his father's uncle helped raise Welles.

There's a DVD out where a guy interviews Welles for about an hour in his Paris hotel room, and I find it difficult to not think, "This guy is a staggering genius." But he was probably pretty difficult and downright assholic at other times. Guys like Bogdanovich could tell ya stories...

I have yet to see Southern Star and Olga the Ostrich; somehow RAW got hold of a (probably duped copy?) and watched it very stoned late in his life.

Eric Wagner said...

I did buy a copy of Southern Star and watched it.

I remember in 1997 Bob said he watched "F for Fake" once a month.

I love how they based the Brain from Pinky and the Brain on Orson.

I remember having dinner with Bob in 1994. I wanted to talk about my Finnegans Wake study group, but he just wanted to talk about his Orson Welles study group.

fyreflye said...

BTW, has any other film director become a character in another director's films? How many times has "Orson Welles" (played by another actor) been a character in somebody else's movie? Look at this list: