Magician: The Astonishing Life And Work Of Orson Welles

MAGICIAN: THE ASTONISHING LIFE AND WORK OF.


MAGICIAN: THE ASTONISHING LIFE AND WORK OF ORSON WELLES (Chuck Workman). 92 minutes. Rating: NNN

Where to watch:iTunes


Sitting through Magician is like watching a film historian sprint through an assigned subject with a remote control in one hand and a stopwatch in another: we’re given all the information that can be packed into the designated running time, but without the context or counterpoints that would snap it all home.

Producer/director Chuck Workman spent years assembling glossy montages for the Oscar telecasts, and that style is very much in effect here. The entire documentary feels like a trailer for itself, always teasing Welles’s cinematic genius and talent for self-destruction but never quite explaining how either of these things actually worked.

Workman draws on archival interviews with Welles and his collaborators (as well as several of the auteur’s delightful talk show appearances in the 70s and early 80s) and a few contemporary conversations with friends like Peter Bogdanovich and Henry Jaglom, but his investigation is strictly surface-level.

I’m a pretty big Welles geek, so I enjoyed the experience anyway – it’s just fun to see him up on the screen again, especially in clips from The Third Man and Touch Of Evil – but I can’t imagine this will enlighten anyone who just wanders in off the street. 

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