this is orson welles


Director: Clara & Julia Kuperberg

Genre: Documentary

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.

this is orson welles cigar

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.

this is orson welles henry jaglom

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.

this is orson welles peter bagdonovich

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

"When I make love, I realize eating steak was the preferable alternative." Sergio is the Crossfader Film Editor and a film connoisseur from Romania. He pretends to understand culinary culture enough to call himself an LA foodie, but he just can't manage to like scallops.

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