Guy Van Stratten, American smuggler, leaves an Italian prison term with one asset, a dying man's words about wealthy, mysterious Gregory Arkadin. Guy finds it most pleasant to investigate Arkadin though his lovely daughter Raina, her father's idol. To get rid of Guy, Arkadin claims amnesia about his own life prior to 1927, sending Guy off to investigate Arkadin's unknown past. Guy's quest spans many countries and eccentric characters who contribute clues. But the real purpose of Guy's mission proves deadly; can Guy himself survive it? Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The endless comparisons between this film and Kane made in these reviews goes to show how little people see beyond the obvious "power corrupts" theme that runs through pretty much ALL Welles' films (even Magnificent Ambersons portends the changes the automobile will have on the world). Besides this theme, Kane was a drama about a man robbed of his mother and his childhood who spends his life trying to recapture both, by playing at newspaper tycoon and building his own pleasure palace and by trying to fill the void where motherly affection should have been with the affection of everyone in the world.
Mr Arkadin is a thriller about a man so afraid of losing his daughter's love and esteem he is willing to kill to maintain it. The story is pure genius: after an opening shot showing an empty aeroplane in mid-air, we flash back to a man found stabbed in the back. Hence Welles sets up two mysteries at once for us to think about. When the knifed man tells Arden's girlfriend two names that are worth a fortune, Van Stratten thinks to blackmail Mr Arkadin with this scant information. Arkadin calls his bluff, and instead confides in Van Stratten that back in 1927 he found himself in Prague wearing a suit with a lot of money in his pocket and no recollection of who he was or how he got there - total amnesia. He hires Van Stratten to find out who Mr Arkadin really is, and thus Van Stratten embarks on a voyage around Europe, trying to trace Arkadin's life back from 1927.
At each destination in Europe, Van Stratten finds Arkadin there too, so we learn that Arkadin has more on the mind than tracing his origins. And when the people Van Stratten interviews start dying, the suspense is shifted up another gear.
Were it not for the lame performance by Arden and the odd moment of awful dubbing, this flawed masterpiece may well have been held in as high esteem as Kane, Ambersons, Touch Of Evil and The Lady From Shanghai, rather than being relegated to Macbeth's 'interesting failure' status. Storytelling wise, this is Welles' at his best, and it's surreal, disturbing plot is more a meeting of The Lady From Shaghai and The Trial than Citizen Kane. Personally, I think this is a greater picture than Touch Of Evil's plain power-corrupts line and The Lady From Shaghai which depends on one high-concept set-piece after another.
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