Magician: The Astonishing Life and Work of Orson Welles looks at the remarkable genius of Orson Welles on the eve of his centenary - the enigma of his career as a Hollywood star, a Hollywood director (for some a Hollywood failure), and a crucially important independent filmmaker. Orson Welles's life was magical: a musical prodigy at age 10, a director of Shakespeare at 14, a painter at 16, a star of stage and radio at 20, romances with some of the most beautiful women in the world, including Rita Hayworth. His work was similarly extraordinary, most notably Citizen Kane, (considered by many to be the most important movie ever made), created by Welles when he was only 25. In the years following Citizen Kane, Welles's career continued to change as he made film after film (some never finished, many dismissed) and acted in other projects often to earn money in order to keep making his own films. Magician features scenes from almost every existing Welles film, from Hearts of Age, (which he ...Written by
When the paternity of Welles's alleged son is mentioned, one of the photographs which is shown and purported to be of Welles is actually a photograph of Vincent D'Onofrio, who played Welles in Ed Wood. See more »
Timed to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Orson Welles' birth
"Magician: The Astonishing Life and Work of Orson Welles" (2014 release; 94 min.) is a documentary about the genius of Orson Welles, 'enfant terrible' of the 1940s-50s Hollywood and godfather of the indie film scene. The movie opens, of course, with the opening scene from "Citizen Kane", where we see Welles whisper "Rosebud", but after that we get a straight-forward and chronological overview of Welles' life and work. The documentary is divided up in 5 chapters, covering different periods of his life (1915-1941 The Boy Wonder; 1942-1949 The Outsider, etc.). To tell you more would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.
Couple of comments: this is the latest from veteran documentary maker Chuck Workman. When I saw his name on this, I felt pretty sure that we'd be in for a great documentary. And it's certainly not a bad documentary. The movie hits all the major high (and low) lights of Welles' career (War of the Worlds; Citizen Kane; Touch of Evil; The Trial; Chimes at Midnight; etc.), and Workman compiles a treasure trove of old clips. He also interviews a bunch of people, including Peter Bogdanovich, Julie Taymor, Steven Spielberg, etc. Yet despite all that, the documentary seems to be missing something. Maybe it's because there is no true new insight or revelation, since yes, we do know that Welles was a genius who was misunderstood and/or difficult to work with. There are a couple of glimpses into Welles' personal life but the tidbit of information from that angle really doesn't add much (we are informed that one of Welles' two surviving daughters refused to cooperate in the making of this documentary). There are a number of great quotes sprinkled throughout the movie such as Orson's "I like Hollywood very much, but Hollywood just doesn't like me much", ha! or this one (about making Citizen Kane): "it wasn't about the money, it was about control". The timing of the documentary is to coincide with the 100th anniversary of Orson Welles' birth.
This documentary opened this weekend without any pre-release fanfare or advertising at my local art-house theater here in Cincinnati. Since I love documentaries and of course admire the genius of Orson Welles, I went to see it right away. The matinée screening where I saw this at was attended okay but not great (it didn't help that midway through the movie, the fire alarm went off and we had to leave the theater temporarily). If you are new to Orson Welles, by all means take the opportunity to check this out, be it in the theater, on Amazon Instant Video or on DVD/Blu-ray. You will be amazed. For those that are already familiar with Orson Welles, there's really nothing new in this documentary.
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