Monday, February 1, 2016

"The Night America Trembled"

Can you make a television show about Orson Welles without mentioning his name? It turns out you can — and you can swear while you do it. Who says the 50s were dull?

By Lars Trodson

“The Night America Trembled,” a 1957 episode of the highly respected live television program “Westinghouse Studio One,” may be the only drama about Orson Welles that doesn’t actually feature Welles himself.

The broadcast may also include another historical anomaly: It seems to contain the first time an actor swore on American television, only no one seems to have noticed.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

A Review of Welles' "Chimes At Midnight"

With a resurgence of interest in Orson Welles' "Chimes At Midnight," this 2009 essay on the film might be of interest. At the time, the film was available on YouTube, but those with early memories of the site may recall that no one could post a clip longer than 10 minutes. You had to watch the film in 11 parts. It was certainly not ideal, but it did give those of us who had always wanted to see the film a chance to have a look. Even in this tiny format, the film was formidable. It is satisfying to see, less than a decade after this rudimentary screening, the world is now welcoming "Chimes At Midnight" and it is being shown all over the world. It is recognized as one of the great films — if not, perhaps, the greatest — by Welles. It is certainly one of the most exhuberant and evocative films ever made from a work by Shakespeare. — Lars Trodson

Here, from April 14, 2009, is my review:

Remembrance Of Things Past: "Chimes At Midnight" by Orson Welles

By Lars Trodson

Orson Welles was the most nostalgic of the modernists. 

He was recognized for the way he told a story, not for the stories he invariably chose to tell. "Citizen Kane" is pulpy, after all, and steeped in the past. It was elevated by the elegance and vision of the photography and acting, and the wit of the screenplay. And then came "The Magnificent Ambersons," (1942) which mourned the loss of a more innocent America at just the time when Americans were fighting for their way of life. “The Stranger" gave audiences a view of small town life disrupted by a Nazi scourge. “Touch of Evil” reeks of the past. All of these are potboilers, and all are graced with great cinematic flair. Welles was creating a new vocabulary for movies, but almost strictly from a visual point of view. Other than through the visual medium, he did not have anything terribly new to say.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Monday, December 14, 2015

The limits of art; the boundaries of obsession

By Lars Trodson

Something in me didn’t even want to pick up the book.

Something felt unfinished; I wasn’t focused when I wrote it but I didn’t want to admit that. I'm talking about when my second novel, “Tide Turning,” came out. I did not feel the rush of excitement I felt with the first book. Not because the experience of having a novel published was old hat, it was rather because I just didn’t feel I had done a good job. I felt I had let everybody down. I was half-hearted about its very existence, and when people who read the book said that it didn’t quite work, I tried to suggest that they were looking at it in the wrong way. I said they perceived it as a mystery when they should be reading it as a character study. That seemed to help some, but I knew, deep down, that even that approach would not explain away the book’s shortcomings.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Review: A Very Murray Christmas

By Lars Trodson

There is no doubt that Bill Murray is a dry, dour comedian. He has a classic, sad sack face. His eyes are sad. He has Lenny Bruce eyes. But he's insanely funny. I was unaware, I must admit, how much Bill Murray meant to people until I saw the film "The Grand Budapest Hotel." The audience I saw that movie with was having none of it, but there was a moment when Murray showed up and the audience awoke and cheered. All he had to to do was show his face, and he made people happy.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Sunday, October 11, 2015

F For Fake: The Least Fake Welles There Is

On the 30 anniversary of Orson Welles' death.

By Lars Trodson

A scene from "F For Fake," released in 1973.

I was in New York recently and went to the Museum of Modern Art. In one of the galleries, hanging on its own wall, was Van Gogh’s “The Starry Night.” It was clearly a hit. There were more people gathered around it than any other painting, and the handhelds were out, clicking away. I was thinking about this because works of art deemed classic, or extraordinary, often occupy their own private physical space. “Starry Night” was on its own wall, while the other, lesser Van Gogh’s were hung in clusters with all the other lesser, less special paintings. This holds true for  almost all types of so-called classic art, such as the “Mona Lisa,” Michaelangelo’s sculptures and even the original Declaration of Independence.” They occupy their own space.

Movies, on the other hand, cannot occupy the same kind of hallowed ground. The prominence of any movie is based solely on the space you give to it in your own mind. In the physical world “Citizen Kane” can be shelved right next to “Booty Call,” but in your head they may be miles apart.