Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Themes and symbolism in Welles's films, plays and radio

Here is my most recent essay on Orson Welles, published at Wellesnet, which challenges Welles's self-imposed myth that he never used symbolism in his work. A close look at everything from his early Broadway plays, to his radio work and in films he wrote and or starred in, shows that there was a dark theme running through almost everything — and a recurring image that he turned to over and over again.

Here's the link and please offer your thoughts, if any. — Lars Trodson

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

A theory on the meaning of the title of "The Other Side Of The Wind"

By Lars Trodson

There has been great debate about whether there is any meaning behind the title of Orson Welles’s last film, “The Other Side Of The Wind.” Welles claimed that he didn’t have the “foggiest” idea of what it signified, if anything at all.

I think Welles was being his usual evasive self, but for the first time it was a self-conscious kind of elusiveness. He was, after all, making the film during a period when he was trying to regain a footing in the American film industry, which had also, at the exact same time, taken a hard left toward “youth movies” — movies made by, and about, young people. This was a revolution inspired by the profitable B-movies of the mid- to late-1960s, which then received mainstream blessing by the success of “Easy Rider,” in 1969. Welles, maverick he may have been, was 55 years old when he started "The Other Side Of The Wind" in 1970.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

I'm shocked! Shocked! (Not really.)

Gaspar NoĆ©’s new film, “Love,” has attached to it the phrase “taboo-busting” because, one can only presume, it has been shown at the Cannes Film Festival and it has scenes of hardcore, unsimulated sex. (The reviews have not been great.) It’s also shot in 3D.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Orson Welles: Born, May 6, 1915

Orson Welles would have turned 100 years old this week.

An object lesson to anyone who wants to make it in Hollywood is to note that the first three pictures Welles directed, "Citizen Kane," "The Magnificent Amberson's" and "The Stranger" were, combined, nominated for 14 Academy Awards. Fourteen! Including two Best Picture nominations.

Now the point is this, one would be hard pressed to name another writer or director whose first three movies received a total of 14 Oscar nominations and then was effectively thrown out of town. And — "The Stranger" made money. It was a hit! ("Citizen Kane" and "The Magnificent Amberson's" lost a total of $800,000.)

Welles' next-to-last Hollywood picture was "The Lady From Shangai," which was a critical and financial disaster, and then, of course, he was out of Hollywood for the next 12 years. He directed, wrote, and starred in "Touch of Evil," now considered a classic, in 1958.

But Welles wasn't done yet. In 1973, he released the film essay "F For Fake," which (although few will admit it) revolutionized film editing. No one paid attention in 1973; everyone just stole his techniques shamelessly after he died.

On Oct. 9, 1985, Welles appeared on The Merv Griffin Show, and spoke about his life and career, including his regrets. A day later he was dead, slumped over his typewriter. He was 70.

— Lars Trodson

Pick up our celebrated anthology of articles on Orson Welles here:

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

What the...?

By Lars Trodson

I didn’t expect to hear a little bit of history while watching a restored version of John Ford's “The Grapes of Wrath” on DVD the other night, but I did. Well, maybe history is too strong a word. But it was certainly different, new and in its own way oddly exciting.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

A Block Island Photo Album

Apropos of nothing, we offer a Block Island photo album that we will update on occasion. — Lars Trodson

Click on the photos to make them full-size.

Friday, July 31
Here we are saying goodbye to July. It's hot out here today, but that has not stopped people from coming to the island. Here's the scene at the Southeast Light, around noon.

This little boat was just skimming across the water off the west side of the island.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Flights Of Fancy: Turning du Maurier's "The Birds" Into Hitchcock's Nightmare

By Lars Trodson

Ed. Note: This is another in our occasional series examining short stories that have been adapted into feature films.

“The Birds” is Alfred Hitchcock’s most schizophrenic movie. It's certainly effective and memorable, but it features some of the worst acting in any film considered to be one of the director’s major efforts. It also has lapses in logic that would be inexcusable in other Hitchcock efforts. The special effects are terrific, but there are some scenes so obviously shot on a sound stage that they break the narrative spell. It could be that Hitchcock simply wasn’t interested in the human story; the primary challenge seemed to be in making sure the audience believed that flocks of birds could orchestrate a deliberate attack on human beings and kill us all. 

But it's also true that Hitchcock and his screenwriter, Evan Hunter (aka Ed McBain), didn’t have much to start with. Daphne du Maurier’s 1952 short story on which the film is based (also called “The Birds”) focuses almost exclusively on the Hocken family— father Nat, his unnamed wife, and their two children, Jill and Johnny. Both story and film offer no explanation as to why the birds attack, but du Maurier presents the reader with some awkward Cold War symbolism as a way to give her little story more heft than it deserves, a touch that Hitchcock wisely discarded. His birds aren't Communists, they've just gone around the bend.