Wednesday, 23 September 2015


I generally don’t watch films on weeknights but last night I secured an hour and a half of the TV to watch Magician: The Astonishing Life and Work of Orson Welles, recorded off Sky Arts at the w/end. I’d been looking forward to this 2014 film for the past few days but it turned out to be a major disappointment, being little more than a competent assembly of film clips and talking head interviews. At 90mins the documentary is simply too short, and there’s a sense of getting the whole damn thing over with as quickly as possible, with surgically cut and pasted interviews and the occasional skating over of key films – Mr. Arkadin and The Immortal Story are dismissed with a few seconds of footage, clips from The V.I.P.s and A Man for All Seasons go uncredited and more infuriating, the film wastes precious time with excerpts from RKO 281, Cradle Will Rock, Me and Orson Welles, and Ed Wood, and at one point a celebrity chef (!) talking about Welles’ love of food – hardly essential stuff. Still, there are positives - Simon Callow and Peter Bogdanovich are present to provide their usual expert testimony and it’s a treat to see films like The Stranger and Journey Into Fear in such stellar quality. Ultimately the film makes for a good foot-in-the-door introduction to world of Welles but seasoned fans will find little new here. If you’re in the UK and Ireland, Sky Arts will no doubt have this on rotation for the next few weeks and I would recommend catching it there rather than investing in the BFI DVD...

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