Category Archives: Golden Age Classic
Orson Welles at 100 | Six of the Best from The Great Disruptor
Throughout July and August, BFI Southbank in London will screen a comprehensive season of Orson Welles’ work in both film and TV, including his big classics, Citizen Kane (1941), The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) and The Lady from Shanghai (1948), and less familiar titles like The Trial (1962), The Immortal Story (1968) and F for Fake (1975), kicking off with StudioCanal’s restored print of The Third Man (1949) this coming Friday (26 June).
It will also include his three adaptations of Shakespeare: Macbeth (1948), Othello (1952) and Falstaff Chimes at Midnight (1966), which is widely considered a highpoint of Welles’ remarkable career, and which also gets a 50th Anniversary Restored Edition is released on 29 June on DVD and Blu-ray from Mr Bongo Films.
Also screening are some rarities, including the recently discovered Too Much Johnson (1938) – which is also set for a Blu-ray/DVD release from Mr Bongo Films – and six compilation programmes, featuring shorts, trailers, TV productions, theatrical adaptations, documentaries, and unfinished projects.
Here are the six that I’m most looking forward to…
THE LADY OF SHANGHAI (4k restoration)
The 1948 hall of mirrors noir thriller is charged by the on-screen chemistry between Welles and his ex-wife Rita Hayworth. This definitive restoration from Colorworks at Sony Pictures, scanned at 4K from the original nitrate negative, recently appeared in the Official Selection Cannes Classics lineup, and will be screened during BFI’s Welles centenary celebrations on Friday 17 July and Thursday 23 July.
THE THIRD MAN (4K restoration)
This 1949 noir classic is a consummate production, from Graham Greene’s witty, disturbing screenplay to Robert Krasker’s evocatively skewed photography and Anton Karas’ unforgettable zither score. But, despite his minimal screen time, Orson Welles’ amoral Harry Lime steals the show – thanks partly to the famous ‘cuckoo clock’ speech penned by Welles himself. Re-released by StudioCanal in a new 4K restoration in cinemas on 26 June and on DVD and Blu-ray on 20 July.
TOUCH OF EVIL (1998 version)
The last feature Welles made in Hollywood, 1958’s Touch of Evil is a virtuoso foray into film noir, exhibiting his extraordinary sense of cinematic style, vivid characterisation and an almost Shakespearian flair for tragedy. The 1998 version is a re-edit of the original by Walter Murch based on a 58-page memo Welles wrote to Universal with his suggestions of alterations to the studio’s cut. This 2013 re-master is released in selected cinemas UK-wide on 10 July.
AROUND THE WORLD WITH ORSON WELLES (DVD release)
In 1955, Associated-Rediffusion commissioned Welles to write, direct and host this ground-breaking mini-series filmed in Europe. Part home-movie, part cinematic essay, each of the six episodes takes the viewer on a fascinating journey across Europe. In Paris, we are introduced to famous artists such as Jean Cocteau; in Madrid, we attend a bullfight; and in Vienna, in an episode which was long believed lost, we are taken to the locations of The Third Man. Released on BFI DVD and limited edition Blu-ray on 24 August.
FALSTAFF CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT (50th Anniversary Restored Edition by Orson Welles)
One of the most radical and groundbreaking of all Shakespeare adaptations, 1965’s Falstaff: Chimes at Midnight was Welles’ favourite of his films and gets a DVD and Blu-ray release on 29 June 2015 from Mr Bongo Films, along with the legendary director’s first feature, Too Much Johnson (1938) and his second-to-last feature, The Immortal Story, starring Jeanne Moreau.
MAGICIAN: THE ASTONISHING LIFE AND WORK OF ORSON WELLES (2014)
Released to mark Welles’ centenary, awarding-winning filmmaker Chuck Workman’s documentary is an illuminating portrait of one of cinema’s most extraordinary personalities. Expect my big review real soon. Released in selected UK cinemas on 3 July and on DVD on 24 August.
Lifeboat (1944) | Alfred Hitchcock’s wartime classic continues to resonate
Alfred Hitchcock has long been regarded as the Master of Suspense, but he was also pretty good at propaganda judging from 1944’s Lifeboat, which was his direct response to the ongoing war in Europe.
Six men and three women – against the sea and each other
After their ship is torpedoed in the North Atlantic, a handful of survivors await rescue aboard a lifeboat. But when the captain of a downed German U-boat is pulled from the sea, the survivors fall out with each over his fate and the direction their boat should be heading.
Not many directors would dare to make an entire suspense film set on board a lifeboat, but Hitchcock, of course, does it masterfully. Thanks to his superb storyboarding skills, you quickly forget it’s all been shot in a Hollywood studio, while the performances of the terrific cast soon draw you into the unfolding drama. Tallulah Bankhead is just marvellous as a mink-coated journalist falling for the dubious charms of John Hodiak’s tough sailor, while Walter Slezak shines as the cagey German officer. But it’s William Bendix as the patriotic German-American suffering from gangrene who really brings a tear to the eye.
While Lifeboat is unashamedly wartime propaganda and its views are very much of the period (especially the racial stereotyping), it does ask profound questions about war that continue to resonate. Its Oscar-nominated cinematography, meanwhile, is superb – especially considering the staged conditions in which they were created.
In 2012, Lifeboat got a dual format release as part of Eureka Entertainment’s Masters of Cinema Series, featuring a new HD master of the film along with Hitchcock’s French language shorts, Bon voyage and Aventure malgache, which the director also made in 1944 to promote the cause of the French Resistance.
In the UK, Sky customers can watch Lifeboat via Sky On Demand and on Sky Movies (Sky 312/340, Virgin 412/442), with the next screening on Thursday 15 May at 4.25am. The film is also available to view on YouTube from Fox International.
Bonjour Tristesse (1958) | Otto Preminger’s sun-drenched classic gets a sumptuous restoration
Wealthy hedonistic widower Raymond (David Niven) and his spoilt daughter Cécile (Jean Seberg) live a carefree summer existence in their villa on the Cote d’Azur until the arrival of Raymond’s old friend Anne (Deborah Kerr), whom he impulsively decides to marry. When the responsible Anne tries to rein in Cécile and her wild ways, the precocious adolescent plots to drive Anne away with tragic results…
This restoration breathes new life into director Otto Preminger’s adaptation of Françoise Sagan’s scandalous 1954 French novel. With its Hollywood pedigree and Riveria postcard setting shot in dazzling CinemaScope, you’d be forgiven in thinking it might be all style over substance, but in putting his faith in his discovery, Jean Seberg (who became the darling of the New Wave and gives a career best performance here), Preminger crafts a masterful father/daughter tragedy.
Seberg’s Cécile may have the face of an angel, but she is as rootless and callous a character as her playboy father (played by an athletic, tanned Niven with caddish perfection), and the terrible damage that she inflicts on his summer romance with Deborah Kerr’s sensible Anne is mesmerising to watch as it plays out to a shocking climax. Meanwhile, the film’s final scenes, set in a monochrome Paris, only highlights the incredible sadness (tristesse) that is rooted in both Cécile and Raymond. This cool and stylish golden-age masterpiece is definitely ripe for rediscovery.
Digitally restored by Sony Columbia’s Grover Crisp (who masterminded last year’s Lawrence of Arabia restoration), Bonjour Tristesse opens in the UK on 30 August at BFI Southbank and at selected cinemas nationwide.
A Must See, of course!