The Eyes of Orson Welles review - a fascinating but fawning love letter to the great director
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Verdict: Worth a watch to get a look at Orson Welles’ art, but too self-indulgent to have the insight it should. To find something a new perspective from which to view a figure as obvious as Orson Welles is impressive, so props to writer/director Mark Cousins for choosing such enthralling subject matter for his latest film essay. Implicitly accepting that eyes are indeed windows to the soul, Cousins finds an unconventional route into Welles’ subconscious – via the great director’s paintings and drawings. Granted access to a treasure-trove of sketches and canvases by Orson’s eldest daughter, Beatrice, Cousins surveys a diverse selection of works, from abstract landscapes to scrawled caricatures. The art itself is amazing, and The Eyes of Orson Welles is worth a watch just to get a good look at it. But really the film’s success rests on Cousins’ insights concerning Welles the man; and in this respect its accomplishments are mixed. Cousins approaches Welles from multiple angles over six chapters, splicing in clips from his films and other archive footage. He finds space for analysis of his work across all mediums (film of course, but also radio and theatre) and even broaches his politics. A particularly fascinating scene shows an aggravated Welles explain that he changed Kafka’s pessimistic ending in his adaptation of The Trial ‘because of the holocaust’ – he couldn’t bear to see his protagonist so easily submit.
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