Welles farrago

In a castle, baroque, bleak and Basque,

At the height of a Goyaesque masque,

The Saturnine host,

Makes a Georgian toast,

‘Bout a scorpion’s tale — please don’t ask!


OK, I have no idea if Arkadin’s castle in Spain is in the Basque country — I expect it isn’t. What can I say? I liked the rhyme.

Two more limericks on a Wellesian slant here and here.

16 Responses to “Welles farrago”

  1. The castle is actually in Segovia (Castile), but I agree that the rhyme wouldn’t be as good ;D

  2. Are you familiar with Austin Pendleton’s play “Orson’s Shadow”? IMO… best live play I have EVER seen!

  3. Yeah, I would have had to make some kind of reference to a fruit pastille or a jellied eel. Incongruous.

  4. I briefly met Austin Pendleton once, in the company of Buck Henry, but I haven’t seen any of the Great Man’s plays, alas. The title has allure! All three of them were in Catch 22, of course.

  5. I saw Austin Pendleton live on stage in Arthur Kopit’sOh Dad Poor Dad Mama’s Hung You in The Closet and I’m Feelin’ So Sad with Jo Van Fleet and Barbara Harris — under the direction of Jerry Robbins.

    I’ve always been crazy about Mr. Arkadin. There are five or six diffetn cuts of it — none of them done by Welles. Th producer took it away from him right after shooting was finished. Still it has his signature all over it. There’s a teriffic shot towards the beginnign where Van Startten (the highly underrated Robert Arden) rushes towards a stairwell at the end of a dark hall way as the camera rapidly pulls away and down that hallway away from him. Bertolucci copied that visual trope frequently — most markedly in The Conformist.

    Akim Tamirioff is hilarious here in a role he more or less continues in Welles’ rendition of Kafka’s The Trial.
    But rather than a story the film is a series of cameos: Mischa Auer, Michael redgrave (behaving onscreen the way he so often behaved off), Peter Van Eyck (more louche than ever) and best of all Katina Paxinou.

    as she crushes her tattered old scrapbooks to her bosom.

  6. The Criterion cut, while not claiming to be the realisation of Welles’ wishes, combines all the material in as far as we know the approximate order Welles planned, and is by far the best way to see the movie. But it’s great that they also include several other cuts in their package.

    I do recall Bertolucci speaking about the camera that movies in a seemingly unmotivated way, and how it came from Welles.

  7. Randy Cook Says:

    And let’s not forget that lovely, melancholy turn by Suzanne Flon.

  8. And Patricia Medina.

    My friend Lawrie used to drink with Robert Arden. He was very enthusd about the film. Waited for it to come out. Waited. Then it opened, and was gone in the blink of an eye. And he continued playing stock Americans in British films.

  9. The criticism of Arden’s performance is entirely a critcism of the character he palys. Van Stratten is a thief and a pimp. More important to the plot, he’s a schmuck. The audience gets wind of Arkadin’t plan to deep-six his own past long before he does. It’s a bold move to create such an unsympathetic hero.

    Interestignly Kubrick did this all the time: A Clockwork Orange, Barry Lyndon, The Shining, Eyes Wide Shut

  10. Welles did it too — he always defended Perkins in The Trial, saying that the criticism directed at the actor was based on a dislike of Welles’ interpretation of K, not Perkins’ execution of that interpretation.

    Usually when Welles played unsympathetic characters, he made them sympathetic anyway, or at least appealing. Harry Lime’s rottenness is far greater than Van Stratten’s, but he’s charismatic and competent.

  11. I always felt that while Kubrick had deeply unsympathetic main characters, they were always played by extremely charismatic actors. With Van Stratten, Bob Arden is (deliberately) much less appealing. He remarked to Akim Tamirioff that he was like a clothes-line on which to hang more interesting characters. Not strictly true you can see the point

    Interestingly because of the way the film was shot, with these one-on-one shot-reverse-shot ‘clothes-line’ encounters (I assume so Welles could shoot different actors at different times) you get this….

    which has completely different actresses instead of Katina Paxinou and Suzanne Flon. I always wondered whether this was Welles or the producers’ doing. And whether they were any good as replacements

  12. I believe Welles was OK with the idea of making a Spanish version — in the event, he didn’t get to oversee any version. But I think he directed the Spanish scenes. The Criterion set has some bits of the Spanish version, but stops short of supplying the whole thing.

    In a way, Van Stratten’s unpleasantness may be a result of Welles’ desire to MAKE the hero interesting. A lout as hero is instantly surprising and offbeat, in theory. I’m not very convinced of Arden’s skills as actor — he’s rather wooden in AMOLAD in his brief bit — but Welles’ use of him is… interesting.

  13. Fascinating that Welles’s shooting style made it possible to replace Flon and Paxinou so easily!

    The films that really shaped me back in the 1960s were Contempt, Lola, Two Weeks in Another Town, The Servant and Mr. Arkadin. I went to see them over and over and over again, drinking in specific pieces of camera movement, cutting, lighting and overall mise en scene. I’ve never lost my love of them — though they don’t make my Top Ten of All-Time.

  14. Unlike many directors who really like to film genuine interplay between their actors, Welles was always up for faking it. He used stand-ins for huge stretches of Chimes at Midnight, and personally preferred to give his own performance to an empty space rather than a real, present co-star.

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