Film Review: Magician: The Astonishing Life and Work of Orson Welles

MAGICIAN: The Astonishing Life and Work of Orson Welles

Documentary Magician: The Astonishing Life and Work of Orson Welles is a comprehensive look at the career of the famed director and actor. Director Chuck Workman’s film seeks to explain why Welles is spoken of in such glowing terms.

Tracing his career from early stage actor in Ireland to critically acclaimed movie star and director, Magician: The Astonishing Life and Work of Orson Welles offers an encompassing view of the public life of the Hollywood star. Friends, co-stars and fellow directors give their thoughts on the astonishing Orson Welles…

Chuck Workman has created an informative and entertaining documentary with Magician: The Astonishing Life and Work of Orson Welles. The film begins at the outset of Welles’ career, making it a biography that is easy to follow. Workman defines different eras in the filmmaker’s career. This is an astute move; the delineation from early success to later struggles is clear.

Magician: The Astonishing Life and Work of Orson Welles speaks to a range of individuals. The focus of the film is clearly on the public persona and career of Welles rather than his personal life. Although the later is referred to during the course of the film, Workman concentrates on the more interesting career tangent.

A variety of directors are interviewed throughout Magician: The Astonishing Life and Work of Orson Welles. It is interesting to note perspective of other filmmakers in discussing the director responsible for Citizen Kane, the film many see as one of the greatest films of all time. Welles’ influence on subsequent directors is clear, from both the range of directors interviewed (including Julie Taymor and Martin Scorsese) and what these filmmakers have to say.

Chuck Workman’s film is obviously well researched, particularly with the early aspects of Welles’ career. Fans of Welles are likely to find the clips and background to his early films fascinating. Overall, Magician: The Astonishing Life and Work of Orson Welles is a must see for fans, and a great appraisal for casual viewers.

Magician: The Astonishing Life and Work of Orson Welles is being released at the BFI Southbank and selected venues nationwide from 3rd July 2015.

Film Review: The Bad and the Beautiful

Vincente Minnelli’s classic film about filmmaking in Hollywood gets a cinematic re-release. The Bad and the Beautiful is more than worthy of its numerous accolades and critical success.

A famous Hollywood actress, an award-winning screenwriter and a respected film director are all asked to take part in famed producer Jonathan Shield’s comeback project. When asked to make a decision by studio executive Harry Pebbel, the three explain their reluctance…

With a perfectly-crafted narrative, The Bad and the Beautiful composes an artful depiction of a notorious character. The story is told mostly in flashback form, not unlike Citizen Kane. And like Orson Welles’ film, the protagonist is an ambiguous character. The story unfolds at a suitable pace, allowing viewers to effectively gage Jonathan Shields. The initial scenes create sufficient mystery to pique the interest.

Characters in The Bad and the Beautiful are well developed, and appear authentic. There is something very believable about proceedings, despite the film being set in an environment which will be alien to most. Certain archetypes appear, but even these characters have enough depth to play a plausible role. Some of the figures can be equated with real players in the movie business, such is the beauty of the film.

Much of the action takes place on film sets and in studio offices. There is a real sense that The Bad and the Beautiful is penetrating the real Hollywood, away from the glitz and prestige of the studio era. It seems as if screenwriter Charles Schnee and writer George Bradshaw aimed to give the audience an insight into how the film industry really worked. There are certainly shades of Sunset Boulevard and All About Eve apparent in Minnelli’s film.

Performances in The Bad and the Beautiful are superb. Lana Turner is entirely convincing as Georgia, as is Kirk Douglas as Shields. Excellent support is provided by Gloria Grahame and Elaine Stewart. Visually, the film features some great composition and shot transitions.

Most film fans would agree that films about Hollywood and the motion picture industry are among some of the best films ever made. The Bad and the Beautiful ranks among these great films about Hollywood; it is a superbly executed production.

The Bad and the Beautiful is released at the BFI Southbank from 20th April 2012, as well as selected cinemas acoss the UK.

Film Review: Day for Night

François Truffaut’s Day for Night is an excellent film about cinema. The 1973 film is frequently humorous, and always compelling.

Film director Ferrand is shooting a movie in Nice. While the film is concerned with affairs and betrayal, Ferrand has an even bigger struggle with the cast and crew’s multiple issues…

Day for Night is shot in a mockumentary style, with its frequent use of handheld camera and occasional narration. This style works exceptionally well for the film, helping to draw parallels between the image the cast and crew wish to project and the actuality of events. The faux documentary style employed by Day for Night does not attempt to purport that the events are real. Rather, it uses the conventions of the form to create humour, and as a storytelling device.

As well as directing and starring in the film, Truffaut also co-wrote the screenplay with Jean-Louis Richard and Suzanne Schiffman. The team has done a brilliant job in crafting characters and writing on point dialogue. Furthermore, some of the set-ups are fantastically entertaining.

Truffaut plays director Ferrand in Day for Night, a character one suspects is not too different from his own persona. Certainly his love of cinema is replicated in Ferrand. The contemporary action in the film is interspersed with a few dream sequences. In these scenes, which feature Ferrand as a child, the director’s passion for cinema becomes clear. Referencing Citizen Kane, it is clear that Truffaut and his character share the same influences.

Performances are good all round, although a few in particular stand out. Valentina Cortese is excellent as alcoholic actress Severine. Cortese plays the actress with an energy that is perfect for the role. The scene in which Severine keeps making mistakes is hilarious, and one of the film’s most memorable scenes thanks to her performance. Elsewhere, Jean-Pierre Léaud is great as melodramatic actor Alphonse. His parody of the young leading man is spot on, portraying an intense but juvenile actor that appears similar to the perceived personalities of many stars. All of the cast deliver their lines exceptionally well, which is so pivotal to the success of the humour.

Georges Delerue’s befitting score competently reflects the tone of the film. Day for Night is engaging from start to finish. It is an accomplished example of François Truffaut’s flair for filmmaking, and a must see for fans of the art of cinema.

Day for Night is being screened at the British Film Institute from 18th February 2011 as part of the François Truffaut season, as well as selected venues across the UK.