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Orson Welles

Out with the old, in with the new. There’s somehow both a reinvigorating and an elegiac tone to much of what’s caught our eye this week:

  • After Shakespeare, Joseph Conrad may have spoken to Orson Welles more than any other writer. Welles wrote screenplays for never-realized adaptations of three of Conrad’s novels. Writing for Bright Lights Film Journal, Matthew Asprey Gear finds that, in Heart of Darkness (1899), which Welles turned into two separate radio plays, he “seems to have found what would become one of his archetypal scenarios: an everyman’s quest for the truth behind an enigmatic ‘great man’ who has succumbed to moral corruption, megalomania, and fascistic abuse of power. It isn’t surprising that Welles eventually elected to play both Marlow and Kurtz on radio and screen, as the story allowed him to simultaneously explore his conflicting identifications with the democratic and aristocratic man.”
  • Among the highlights of the new issue of Cinema Scope is Erika Balsom’s piece on Queen of Diamonds (1991), in which she suggests that Nina Menkes follows Barbara Loden, Chantal Akerman, and Agnès Varda “in imagining the potentials of withdrawal, while uniquely infusing this space of negation with an entrancing, witchy magic that comes from, and stands against, the prolonged experience of patriarchal violence.” Michael Sicinski writes that one of the questions posed by the work of Ja’Tovia Gary is whether art can “be a space for the reclamation of African-American subjectivity, even as the broader social world ramps up its white supremacist tyranny.” Adam Nayman talks with Josh and Benny Safdie about Uncut Gems, which Josh calls “the nexus of our obsessions.” And Robert Koehler argues that the “greatest influence” on Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman is Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon (1975), “in which a young Irishman climbs the ladders of fortune, violence, and historical events to reach a pinnacle of success, which precedes the utter collapse of his family and his own internal destruction.”
  • Talking to Dave Itzkoff in the New York Times, Scorsese himself says of The Irishman: “It’s all about the final days. It’s the last act.” Itzkoff finds Scorsese in a reflective mood, wishing he could take a year off just to read, listen to music, and hang with friends but also fully aware that his nature will carry on driving him to work as hard as he ever has. The conversation covers Scorsese’s past struggles with studios, the portrayal of women in his films, and making movies in the age of streaming. Mention is made, too, of his hopes that his Film Foundation might be able to restore and preserve movies in the 20th Century Fox library recently acquired by Disney.
  • Two weeks ago, Srikanth Srinivasan completed his translation of Piges Choisies (from Griffith to Ellroy), a collection of writing by Luc Moullet. Now the Notebook is running Jordan Cronk’s interview with the eighty-two-year-old critic and filmmaker in which he looks back on working in the offices of Cahiers du cinéma alongside Godard, Truffaut, Rohmer, and Chabrol. “The goal was to have a voice that was sometimes violent, yes, but always very affirmative about things,” says Moullet. “I am very passionate about defending new works, new filmmakers, forgotten films, or films that would go unnoticed.” In his first piece for Cahiers, published when he was eighteen, Moullet championed Edgar G. Ulmer, and he followed up with a longer text on Samuel Fuller. “Very recently,” he adds, “I’ve been championing the work of Isabelle Prim, Hendrick Dusollier, and Alain Guiraudie. So that’s what drives me to keep writing, so that people can discover new works.”
  • Thirty years ago, Paul Roth, currently the director of the Ryerson Image Centre in Toronto, came across a job posting. Robert Frank, the renowned photographer and filmmaker who passed away last fall, was looking for someone to organize his archive. “It seemed absurd to apply, and foolhardy not to,” Roth recalls in Border Crossings. He landed the job and set the course of his career. “Robert’s storied mistrust of artistic convention ultimately helped rewrite the ‘rules’ of photography and cinema,” writes Roth. “Among his most significant legacies is the compelling way he merged still and moving images to make artwork somewhere between the two.”

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