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 <email@example.com>
The novel and the screenplay were both based on an episode in the radio series, "The Lives of Harry Lime", in which Welles played his Harry Lime character as rather less villainous that he was in The Third Man (1949). In "Mr. Arkadin", the Harry Lime character is renamed "Guy van Stratten" and is played by Robert Arden, while Welles plays Arkadin. The radio episode was number 37 in the series, entitled "Man of Mystery," and first broadcast on 11 April 1952. The introduction to the episode also describes the movie: "One late afternoon a couple of years ago, a plane was sighted about seventy miles out of Orly Airport in Paris. It was a private plane, medium sized, and nobody was in it; nobody at all. The plane, keeping its course steadily toward Paris, was flying itself. Why was it empty? Who had been flying it? And why, and under what circumstances, had they left it? Why? Thereby hangs a tale." See more »
Orson Welles' prosthetic nose disappears when Arkadin meets with Jakob Zouk. See more »
Did I ever mention that I watched Mr. Arkadin every day for three months once? And that I recently bought a version of it different from the one I bought years ago (supposedly the UK print), and enjoyed it like I was seeing it for the first time?
Welles is a childhood hero. There's nothing rational about my feelings about Welles. If there are Welles fan boys, I admit to being one. But I have entertained the notion that I like Mr. Arkadin (also called Confidential Report, sometimes) as much as I do because it so completely betrays Welles as a titanic artist having to deal with the small frustrations and vicissitudes of Everyman. The bones of the thing, the behind the scene life of the film, the fact that the whole thing at one point passed through the man's hands shows through more than on any film he ever made. You actually see the customs stamps at the end of reels! His stratagems are more obvious, his resources more threadbare here than even Othello, his most legendary prolonged/disjointed/truncated shoot. Parts of it look shot on Super8; as good as some of it looks, at other times, the lighting doesn't feel professional (I am thinking of the nightclub and penitent procession scenes). In the end, I think Arkadin is the one completed and released Welles film that humanizes the man, without exactly bringing him low.
Clinching my interest in the film is Welles' comment, reiterated for different interviewers through the years, that Arkadin contained the best story he ever thought up to film. (He made a radio script of it first, and when he refined it for film, he saw fit to keep perhaps 95% intact from the radio play.) I may not agree with Welles' own appraisal of Arkadin as a story, but again, his comments betray perhaps more than intended: Welles' deep, and possibly irrational, feeling of attachment to this film. He said he considered it the most 'destroyed' film (destroyed by outside interference) he ever made. --Worse even than The Ambersons! I really think he never had "closure" with the experience of making Arkadin, and it continued to haunt him the rest of his days.
I invite you to take a look at it (it is available in many cheap public domain DVD versions) and see if you, too, fall under its spell. If it leaves you totally cold, or you can't take it seriously, I understand. But remember, better and worse DVD versions exist. Supposedly, the Criterion Collection will release it sometime in the next couple of years. That may be the version to make your definitive move with.
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