The Eyes of Orson Welles (2018)

August 14th, 2018
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: Mark Cousins | Doc | UK |

Devotees of the great Orson Welles will be delighted by another in-depth look into the world of the charismatic legend Orson Welles by British director Mark Cousins who shares photos, drawings and paintings that add another dimension to our existing knowledge of the Hollywood maverick’s talents to amuse. 

THE EYES OF ORSON WELLES plays out like a person to person love letter to narrated by its director director Mark Cousins, in his lilting Belfast burr, bringing him up to date on how the world has changed since his departure on 10 October 1985 at the age of only 70.

Orson Welles was not just an actor, director and writer known for his wide-ranging films, plays and creative endeavours, but a pioneering maverick who wasn’t afraid to stand apart from the crowd and champion his  ideals. He was a towering figure both physically and intellectually, so much so that  J Edgar Hoover added him to the US security list.

This is not the first time Cousins has adopted this style for his documentaries: What Is This Film Called Love? and I Am Belfast are similarly crafted and mark him out to be an engaging writer who 2017 book The Story Of Looking, The Eyes Of Orson Welles is a also epistolary in style. Initially commanding there are times when his didactic, stentorian tone feels a little too heavy-going and you long for a lighter touch to the way he engages enthusiastically with his subject.

But this must undoubtedly be one of the most encyclopaedic films – possibly the defiinitive biopic of the master as Cousins embarks with the blessing of Beatrice (Welles third daughter by Dolores del Rio) on a peripatetic odyssey enriched with photos, paintings – even Christmas cards – and archival footage charting Welles’ birthplace in Wisconsin in 1915 and on to Ireland, Paris, Morocco and Spain to mention a few countries visited in his lifetime

Orson may have been outspoken but he was also generous and public-spirited and took great interest in charity work and espoused old-fashioned ideas of chivalry – in common with the  character of Don Quixote (his unfinished film commenced shooting in 1957 but never came to fruition); he was a natural in his performances as Winston Churchill, Louis XVII, Michelangelo, Benjamin Franklin, Emperor Justinian and other great minds and leaders .

This is a mammoth undertaking which Cousins pulls off with his customary aplomb as he delves deeper and deeper into the life, loves and singular visual style of this intriguing genius. But in a sense there is a feeling that he only scratches the surface in just short of two hours.

Daughter Beatrice Welles makes her presence known but never outstays her welcome which seems to add a dimension that could have been more thoroughly explored. MT


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