Cleansing the doors of cinematic perception... for a better now

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Leave us play "What If?"

I'm nearly done reading Simon Callow's second volume of Orson Welles bio: "Hello Americans."

It's raining out, all day.

I can't get motivated to edit my own film-in-progress.

A friend of mine is off the wagon again...and it all conspires to fill me with woe. While pilfering google for the above shot, I read Atlantic Monthly's review of "Hello Americans." In it, Benjamin Schwartz says this:

"This volume, in fact, attempts to answer “the most persistent question asked about Orson Welles: what went wrong after Citizen Kane?” In so doing, it chronicles the years in which one of the most extraordinary American lives utterly and permanently changed direction. And, concomitantly, it traces what David Thomson, the great film critic and historian, calls “one of the small tragedies of the 20th century”: the terrible fate of Ambersons."

Ah, one of the century's small tragedies indeed. Of course the guilt on Welles for crumbling in the final stretch time after time must have been tremendous. Now all of us cineastes look back on the shambles that is Welles' post-Kane output and wonder, of course, when Criterion is going to grace us with definitive attempts at DVDs of THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS and MACBETH.

Alas, Banquo, it's all too much for me. First, Orson looks just like my dad (especially old Orson). Second, I'm a lot like Orson myself, in ego if not talent. Third, why are we always looking back at what could have been? Will I as Erich of the future regret not doing more to pull my off the wagon friend back from her abyss of choice? Her talent is, perhaps, even closer to Welles's then my own! She could be "the one"!

Creative genius comes with thorny, poisoned tentacles attached. Cut the thorns off and the rose grows listless. Welles, I wish I could roar back in time and awake you to the task at hand - to cut your Brazil trip short and race home to save AMBERSONS, to stay in Hollywood long enough to finish editing MACBETH! Woe to us mortals still thumb-tacked to the corkboard of existence! All that juicy footage is forever lost; the entirety of the famous ballroom tracking shot exists now only in the manufactured memories of replicants.

Four, when I last fell off the wagon, some 9 long years ago, dear listener - I watched Welles's MACBETH over and over for three or four straight days--nights--bleeding into one another, the gray light of six o clock, was it AM or PM? You get the picture--and my half-murdered by its own hand soul was bonded to that movie, bled into it. The title that cannot be named! MACBETH! There, I said it! Why run? MACBETH, Thane of Cawdor!

The magnetism of Welles is strong to this day. I'm sure I'm far from the only one with an Orsonesque dad or ego; we're all drawn to him as a larger than life signifier of our own unfulfillable aspirations. Unfulfillable or just too hard? Battles are not made to be won any more than a treadmill is meant to be a marathon. Artistic endeavors have a habit of dissolving into meaninglessness when the big void looms. It's almost like the hand of fate gives you a bitch slap warning to settle down and dim your wattage. Drift into obscurity and live forever or else get mowed down by the angry scythe that's kept American artistic evolution stunted for so long now, cutting down the high-rising blooms like James Dean, Monty Clift, Marilyn, and now Heath Ledger, and sending others, like Welles and Nina Simone, into the gardens of Europe to hide.

Did I mention I vant to move to Berlin?

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