ORSON WELLES: A Critical View by AndrÉ Bazin

ORSON WELLES: A Critical View

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In 1958, shortly before his death, AndrÉ Bazin revised his landmark bio-critical appreciation of director-actor Orson Welles, and this slim volume offers the first English translation, along with Jean Cocteau's oblique ""profile"" and a new foreword by filmmaker FranÇois Truffaut. Truffaut not only updates the update--with references to such post-Bazin Welles productions as The Trial, Falstaff, and even little-seens and unreleaseds like F for Fake and The Other Side of the Wind; he also offers a chatty, charming-but-serious, movie-buffish Welles survey (he listens to Welles dialogue soundtracks in the bathroom!) that many moviegoers will favor over Bazin's more technical/theoretical analysis. Still, Bazin was there first--in 1950--giving Welles the cachet of the Cahiers du CinÉma and laying the foundation for a near-cultish prestige. And, even though Bazin's sketchy biographical data has been overshadowed by later studies and by Houseman's Run-Through--and even with his fevered weightiness (""crystalline mass of moral significance""/""ontological ambivalence of reality"")--in remains the most eloquent student of the Welles screen presence (in Third Man and Touch of Evil especially) and the Welles revolution in camerawork: the ""camera obstinately refuses to come to our assistance,"" as Welles substitutes claustrophobic, psychologically demanding mise-en-scène one-shots for the 1930s' back-and-forth ""dÉcoupage."" Both Bazin and Truffaut find much to admire in such neglected films as Macbeth and Othello. Neither provides much help in understanding the strange, downhill path of the Welles career. But these two brief tributes--written twenty years apart--lend weight to each other, an odd coupling that mirrors the dazzling ambivalence of ""the wonder boy from Kenosha.

Pub Date: Nov. 23rd, 1977
Publisher: Harper & Row