Daily Archives: September 11, 2018

Divas and Dandies: Orson Welles’ THE IMMORTAL STORY

Written for Criterion‘s DVD and Blu-Ray of The Immortal Story, released in 2016. — J.R.

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Where the story-teller is loyal, eternally and unswervingly loyal to the story, there, in the end, silence will speak. Where the story has been betrayed, silence is but emptiness. But we, the faithful, when we have spoken our last word, will hear the voice of silence…

— Grandmother in Isak Dinesen’s “The Blank Page” (Last Tales)

 

Virginie had a taste for patterns; one of the things for which she despised the English was that to her mind they had no pattern in their lives. She frowned a little, but let Elishama go on. “Only,” he went on, “sometimes the lines of a pattern will run the other way of what you expect. As in a looking-glass.”

 “As in a looking-glass,” she repeated slowly.

 “Yes,” he said. “But for all that it is still a pattern.”

— Dinesen’s “The Immortal Story” (Anecdotes of Destiny)

 

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Aside from William Shakespeare, no writer excited Orson Welles’ imagination more than Isak Dinesen (1885-1962) — a Danish baroness who wrote mainly in English — especially when it came to the films he wanted to make. Even though she was born thirty years ahead of him, they shared a capacity to stand outside and beyond their own eras.… Read more »

Orson Welles’s MACBETHs

Written for the Olive Films Blu-Ray in 2016. — J.R.

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[Orson Welles’s] desire to transcend the barriers separating the classics, the avant-garde, and popular culture remains, I believe, his most enduring legacy.

– Michael Anderegg, Orson Welles, Shakespeare and Popular Culture (1999)

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It seems probable that no American film director ever rattled the American mainstream more than Orson Welles, and none of his features rattled that mainstream more than his two versions of Macbeth, made successively out of the same material he shot in 1947, and released successively in the U.S. in 1948 and 1950. Welles’ fifth completed feature, it was the first of many that would come out in more than one version, and the first that decisively shifted his public status, against his own wishes, from that of commercial studio director to that of arthouse auteur — a profile that would be deviated from only by Touch of Evil a decade later, the only other studio feature he would ever make.

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Welles’ approach to the material is wildly neo-primitive and so expressionistic that one can never be entirely sure whether the action is taking place in interiors or exteriors; the same ambiguity persists in the spoken text, where off-screen internal monologue and on-screen external speech often seem only a breath apart.… Read more »