Dismissed upon its release as a disaster, Orson Welles’s Mr. Arkadin (a.k.a. Confidential Report) a few years later was declared by Cahiers du cinéma as one of the greatest films ever made. This enigmatic masterwork, now available to stream on the Criterion Channel on FilmStruck, tells the story of an elusive billionaire who hires an American smuggler to investigate his past, leading to a dizzying descent into a cold-war European landscape. The film’s history is also marked by this vertigo. There are at least eight Mr. Arkadins—three radio plays, a novel, several long-lost cuts, and the controversial European release known as Confidential Report. We’ve gathered all of these elements in one landmark edition, which also features interviews and episodes from the radio program on which the film is based.
Also up this week: an in-depth profile of legendary French filmmaker Robert Bresson, a spotlight on life in the counterculture, a rock-and-roll double feature, and the final season of the era-defining television series Split Screen.
Bresson gave his first on-camera interview well into his career for Robert Bresson: Without a Trace, a 1965 episode of the French television series Cinéastes de notre temps, filmed during the production of Au hasard Balthazar. In a wide-ranging conversation with Cahiers du cinéma critic François Weyergans, Bresson sheds light on his personal philosophy of filmmaking—and his fondness for Goldfinger. Watch an excerpt from the documentary here, and check out other episodes of Cinéastes on the Channel, including profiles of John Cassavetes and Max Ophuls.
Two warm, colorful portraits of the counterculture: in Agnès Varda’s short documentary Uncle Yanco (1967), the first of several freewheeling films she made in California, the French New Wave doyenne meets, for the first time, an eccentric relative who lives on a houseboat in Sausalito; in the bittersweet and lived-in comedy Together (2000), Swedish director Lukas Moodysson sets up camp amid a particularly dysfunctional Stockholm commune in the 1970s.
Friday Night Double Feature: Gimme Shelter and This Is Spinal Tap
One of the all-time great rock documentaries takes the stage alongside the quintessential rock mockumentary. Albert and David Maysles’s Direct Cinema landmark Gimme Shelter (1970) captures the Rolling Stones near the end of their 1969 U.S. tour, at a free outdoor concert in San Francisco that suddenly turned violent. Rob Reiner’s uproarious This Is Spinal Tap (1984) tags along with a much more hapless band on the road (brought to life by Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, and Harry Shearer), all the while skewering the excesses and absurdities of heavy metal.
A priceless time capsule of movie-loving culture at the turn of the millennium, John Pierson’s groundbreaking series Split Screen premiered on IFC twenty years ago. Over the past several months, we’ve been celebrating the show’s anniversary, and now we’ve finally reached its tenth and final season. Among the highlights: a quest to unearth a long-buried Cecil B. DeMille set, and a trip to a remote Fijian cinema that would go on to inspire Steve James’s 2005 documentary Reel Paradise.