Magician: The Astonishing Life and Work of Orson Welles looks at the remarkable genius of Orson Welles on the eve of his centenary – the enigma of his career as a Hollywood star, a Hollywood director (for some a Hollywood failure), and a crucially important independent filmmaker.
Orson Welles’s life was magical: a musical prodigy at age 10, a director of Shakespeare at 14, a painter at 16, a star of stage and radio at 20, romances with some of the most beautiful women in the world, including Rita Hayworth. His work was similarly extraordinary, most notably Citizen Kane, (considered by many to be the most important movie ever made), created by Welles when he was only 25.
In the years following Citizen Kane, Welles’s career continued to change as he made film after film (some never finished, many dismissed) and acted in other projects often to earn money in order to keep making him own films.
Magician features scenes from almost every existing Welles film, from Hearts of Age, (which he made in a day when he was only 18 years old) to rarely-seen clips from his final unfinished works like The Other of the Dream, The Deep and Don Quixote, as well as his television and commercial work.
What We Thought:
I have long found Orson Welles to be one of the most fascinating and intriguing figures in cinema history. Obviously, he will always be best known for Citizen Kane, but I’m also a big fan of his War of the Worlds broadcast and some of his lesser known films like the stellar The Magnificent Ambersons.
Equally as interesting as his body of work is his personal history. Once one of the most promising talents in Hollywood, his behavior and reputation led to a career that became, well, unusual to say the least.
Magician: The Astonishing Life & Work of Orson Welles is a feature-length documentary about Welles’ life and work, and it’s terrific. Welles was a completely mercurial man, and this film tries to peel back some of the layers and give us some understanding of the mad genius.
It’s filled with tons of archival interviews with Welles, as well as clips from his movies and lesser-seen projects. In short, it’s everything a Welles fan of a student of cinema history could ask for.