THIS IS ORSON WELLES Review
THIS IS ORSON WELLES
Director: Clara & Julia Kuperberg
The Kuperberg sisters have framed an enjoyable, undeniably important, yet disappointingly routine portrait of possibly the most important filmmaker in cinematic history. With THIS IS ORSON WELLES, which premiered at Cannes’ 2015 festival, viewers are given the opportunity to hear firsthand accounts from many of Welles’ closest friends, and are exposed to some spectacular archived footage of the man himself during his later years.
That cigar is longer than virtually every penis on Earth
What must be commended is how effectively THIS IS ORSON WELLES makes its viewers empathize with its subject. The Kuperbergs’ don’t invent any tragic sub-plot to give dramatic depth to Welles’ life because his career was innately painted in a thick coat of failure, allowing for the documentary to play out like a Van Gogh-ian analysis of someone who, by today’s standards, is considered a demigod of cinematic history. All of this is bolstered by interesting and often endearing interviews from the likes of Peter Bogdanovich, Henry Jaglom and more.
If you can believe, in person Henry Jaglom is even more intolerable than his hat
But, despite hitting the emotional peaks and staying concise, THIS IS ORSON WELLES also feels oddly surface-level for a documentary on the life of such a great artist. Thanks to interviews of Welles’ close friends, viewers are invited into entertaining experiences with this great artist, but a lot of what made him who he is feels like it is undercut by these endless “Orson Welles War Stories”. Consequently, this makes for an endless series of interviews that feel highly personal, but also blatantly trivial to the man himself.
It becomes obvious that the Kuperberg siblings had the noble intent of cataloging the life and times of Orson Welles by only interviewing people that knew him personally. Unfortunately for them, it almost seems like they were late to the party, because so many of Orson Welles friends are at an age where listening to them talk is like visiting a retirement home: The stories are great, but they are so far removed from those days at this point that they become somewhat selfish projections of the interviewee rather than the subject himself.
Peter Bogdanovich and the scarf of self-importance
What makes this all the more apparent is the odd and disappointingly trivial inclusion of Martin Scorsese, who despite his brilliant intellect, feels sidelined because he didn’t know Welles on a personal level the same way the other interviewees did. However, Scoresese’s academic slant on the discussion illuminates the core flaw of THIS IS ORSON WELLES, which is that the film fails to let its viewers understand what life experiences shaped his credo.
This review originally appeared here.
Verdict: Do Not Recommend