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ORSON WELLES: THE ONE MAN BAND

Germany / France / Switzerland, 1995 (MIFF 1996, Documenta)

Director: Vassili Siovic

Documentary filmmaker Vassili Silovic's candid exploration of various Orson Welles projects is a fascinating tribute to his idio­syncratic talents and was made possible with the co-operation of Oja Kodar. Welles longtime companion, erstwhile collaborator and cust­odian of the vaults which contain the footage that collectively represents several decades of creative activity not fully realised.

Although legal and commercial disputes have blocked the public screening ol much of his work, which was often left in an admittedly incomplete and/or unedited state, the rare chance to catch glimpses of these unfinished projects is a must-see for film buffs. Major highlights include scenes from Herman Melville's Moby Dick. shot in 1971, in which Welles, plays various characters, the film version of The Merchant of Venice ( 1970) with Welles as Shylock. some disconnected fragments from the thriller The Deep (c 1966), which would reach the screen over 20 years later as Dead Calm, the bizarrely amusing trailer For F Sake (1974); Swinging London (1969). a mini-comedy in which he plays different characters ranging from Chinese strip club owner to Cockney labourer, and the legend­ary The Other Side of the Wind (1970-76) containing dazzling sequences including a silent but erotically charged sex scene in which a woman seduces a fellow passenger in a car while the rain pelts down accompanied by the hypnotic sound of water falling across the windscreen wipers.

Kodar gives an admittedly biased view of the filmmakers' final 20 years in which he constantly worked on different projects and attempted to raise financing by making commercials, acting in numerous star vehicles and doing voice-overs. This became known as the Welles system' expressed thus. "I use my own work to subsidise my work, in other words. I am crazy" (PHa)

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