Originally written as the tenth chapter of my book Movie Wars: How Hollywood and the Media Limit What Films We Can See (2000), this is also reprinted in my 2007 collection Discovering Orson Welles. Because of the length of this essay, I’m posting it in two installments – J.R.
3. The taboo against ﬁnancing one’s own work. I assume it’s deemed
acceptable for a low-budget experimental ﬁlmmaker to bankroll his or
her own work, but for a “commercial” director to do so is anathema
within the ﬁlm industry, and Welles was never fully trusted or respected
by that industry for doing so from the mid-forties on. This pattern
started even before Othello, when he purchased the material he had
shot for It’s All True from RKO with the hopes of ﬁnishing the ﬁlm
independently, a project he never succeeded in realizing. As an
overall principle, he did something similar in the thirties when he
acted in commercial radio in order to surreptitiously siphon money
into some of his otherwise government-ﬁnanced theater productions
during the WPA period, a practice he discusses in This Is Orson
Welles. John Cassavetes, who also acted in commercial ﬁlms in order
to pay for his own independent features, suffered similarly in terms of
overall commercial “credibility,” which helps to explain why he and
Welles admired each other.… Read more »
Originally written as the tenth chapter of my book Movie Wars: How Hollywood and the Media Limit What Films We Can See (2000), this is also reprinted in my 2007 collection Discovering Orson Welles. Because of the length of this essay, I’ll be posting it in two installments – J.R.
Nothing irritates one more with middlebrow morality than the perpetual needling of great artists for not having been greater.
— Cyril Connolly
During my almost thirty years as a professional ﬁlm critic,
I’ve developed something of a sideline — not so much by
design as through a combination of passionate interest and
particular opportunities — devoted to researching the work
and career of Orson Welles. Though I wouldn’t necessarily
call him my favorite ﬁlmmaker, he remains the most
fascinating for me, both due to the sheer size of his talent, and
the ideological force of his work and his working methods.
These continue to pose an awesome challenge to what I’ve been
calling throughout this book the media-industrial complex.
In more than one respect, these two traits are reverse sides of
the same coin. A major part of Welles’s talent as a ﬁlmmaker
consisted of his refusal to repeat himself — a compulsion to
keep moving creatively that consistently worked against his
credentials as a “bankable” director, if only because banks rely
on known quantities rather than on experiments.… Read more »
From the Chicago Reader (September 1, 1988). — J.R.
David Cronenberg’s finely tuned psychological thriller (1988, 115 min.) explores the complex lives of two gynecologists, identical twins (both played by Jeremy Irons) who share everything from their lovers to their successful fertility clinic. Their close mutual ties become challenged when both are attracted to the same actress (Genevieve Bujold). A tour de force — especially for Irons, whose sense of nuance is so refined that one can tell almost immediately which twin he is in a particular scene — and the special effects involving both twins simultaneously are so well handled that one quickly forgets about the underlying illusion. But the sheer unpleasantness of the plot, inspired by a real-life case, guarantees that this isn’t a film for everyone, and people like myself who find the character played by Bujold (in one of her best performances) more interesting than either of the twins are bound to feel rather frustrated by the end. (JR)
… Read more »
From the June 1984 issue of Film Comment. This chronicles my very first visit to the Rotterdam International Film Festival. I believe I was the first member of the American press ever to have been invited (a perk I owe to Sara Driver and Jim Jarmusch having spoken to festival director Huub Bals) — the first of my 20 visits to this very special festival. I’m sorry that Rotterdam no longer invites me (I believe that my last visit there was in 2007), but I guess even the best perks can’t be expected to last forever. My first visit there, in any case, was one of the most memorable; Joseph L. Mankiewicz was there to accept the Erasmus Prize (and to give a press conference at which, if memory serves, he spent almost half an hour answering the first question), and I received my very first glimpses of the work of Raúl Ruiz. I should add that I did festival reports this first year for both Film Comment and Sight and Sound, although it was part of Huub’s singularity that he never required any coverage from me in order for me to get invited back the following year.… Read more »