Monday, 26 July 2010


Orson Welles has always been a film hero of mine but increasingly in recent years I've come to believe that he was also a an asshole. A genius ? No doubt of that. I've also begun to realise that Orson Welles is as much a creation of Charles Orson Welles as Bob Dylan is a creation of Robert Zimmerman. Maybe it is a case of gods creating men in their own image. In Richard Linklater's film Welles (brilliantly played by english actor Christian McKay) says something like "If you hide yourself deep enough it makes it hard for people to hate you". That Welles was an egomaniac is undoubted and it is good that this film does not skirt that aspect of his character but it also goes a long way towards explaining why people put up with him. He could deliver the goods - not all the time - but enough times that even his failures become fascinating. Also he had enough charm and charisma to sell fridges to eskimos. This film is fiction woven into the true story of Welles' 1937 Mercury Theatre production CAESAR in New York. An aspiring young actor is hired to play a small role in the play and through his eyes we see the rehearsals and the openinging night as well as his affair with a girl who works at the theatre (usurped by Welles) and his final betrayal by the the famous actor. The film brilliantly recreates the New York theatre of the late Thirties (although amazingly most of it was filmed on The Isle of Man!) and the cast is quite exemplary. The film really hinges on the believability of McKay's Welles and, familiar as I am with Orson, from his first appearance it is like watching Welles himself. Plaudits too young Zac Efron who is excellent as the aspiring actor. It's always fun to see real people portrayed on the screen and here there is a veritable feast of goodies to choose from - Ben Chaplin as George Coulouis, James Tupper as Joseph Cotten, Eddie Marsem as John Houseman amongst others.Claire Danes and Zoe Kazan both capture just the right mood as two very different girls of the Forties. I really can't fault it. Based on the novel by Robert Kaplow. Rating *****

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