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Review: The Eyes of Orson Welles

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The life and films of Orson Welles have poured over by many a filmmaker, and even director/critic/historian Mark Cousins debated whether the world really needed another. But, a chance meeting with Welles’ daughter Beatrice and being shown her late father’s drawings and he found his angle.

For those not familiar with Cousin’s work, his films are often esoteric essays that interweave glimpses into the filmmaking process as well as the subjects they capture.

In The Eyes of Orson Welles Cousins goes on a kind of cinematic pilgrimage, narrating an open-letter to Welles, visiting various places he worked and travelled in such as the US, Ireland and Spain.

It can feel fairly indulgent, even ponderous at times (a running time of just under two hours feels a bit stretched). However, the framing device of the different Orson Welles personas Cousins identifies through his drawing works well. Perhaps these various personas would have been more easily digested in individual episodes (like a mini version of Mark Cousin’s The Story of Film: An Odessy series)

The broader strokes of the film look at how the drawings sketch out ideas for Orson Welles’ stage and screen productions from Julius Ceasar to Citizen Kane, and also makes a case for the relevance of Welles’ work in today’s socio-political climate.

It doescontradictoryfrom the complex and contradictary nature of his subject, diving into both Welles’ deep seated sense of social justice, and his rather dubious treatment of women.

The clips are all carefully curated and deconstructed, and repeatedly returns to an image of Welles in his 20s, wild eyed, with one hand on his face as though he’s staring back at us, incredulous at the way the world has changed since he died 33 years ago.

The Eyes of Orson Welles is a love letter to a complex film icon through a cineaste’s lens, and a film for fans who want a film that dives deeper than the average Hollywood stories doc.

The Director’s Q&A tour runs from 12th-22nd August, cinema release 17th August.

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