More than any other film-maker of the sound era Welles seems to embody ‘renaissance man’: that is he ‘can do all things well’. His films sprawl across C20th cinema and Citizen Kane (1941) can still claim to be the outstanding Hollywood production. His series of Shakespeare adaptations on film are some of the finest renderings of the ‘Bard’, and Chimes at Midnight (1965) is one of the most moving. And F for Fake (1973) displayed his interest in magic and deception. His Federal Theatre Project productions, such as ‘Macbeth’ (1936), stood out in the decade. On Radio the Mercury Theatre’s ‘War of the Worlds’ (1938) remains the most famous media spoof in the modern era.
As an actor he graced both his own films and those of many other film-makers: in the 1956 Moby Dick he is as memorable as the great leviathan. For television he was the great raconteur; in the BBC series ‘Orson Welles Sketchbook’ he reminisced as he drew. And in the mammoth BBC Arena interview, when asked about Hollywood he responded,
‘I always liked Hollywood but it was never reciprocated’.
Equally slyly and witty were his famous commercial adverts including that for ‘Carlsberg’.
In this new film Mark Cousins explores Welles painting and drawings. This was a life-long activity and Cousins creates a biographical and artistic study using the art works, photographs, film clips and interviews. As this is Cousins there are slightly fanciful sequences but overall this is a fascinating study of one of the major film-makers of the C20th.