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Magician

Directed by Chuck Workman

USA, 2014

HOME, 4 July 2015

A documentary about the life and work of Orson Welles, mainly the work.

It’s fairly comprehensive, covering his work in radio and theatre as well as film, but there are precious few new insights. Welles is the main contributor, curiously enough, but we are only given snippets of interviews of him; there’s nary an extended speech. Other talking heads include Peter Bogdanovic, Charlton Heston (the star of Touch of Evil) and Simon Callow.

Many years ago I saw an Arena documentary about Welles and this film seems to have plundered it at length, for the clips are awfully familiar. So Jeanne Moreau calling Welles a destitute king; Anthony Perkins recalling his remark that Joseph K. was ‘guilty as hell’; I’d heard both these before, then, over 25 years ago, on the BBC. There’s skimpy treatment of the Pauline Kael controversy, as of everything else. No word from Joseph Cotton.

For those looking for an overview of Welles’s career, this documentary does the job. If you’re looking for something that looks a little deeper, best thing would probably be to seek out David Thomson’s biography of the man.

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