Peter Bogdanovich on F for Fake

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Orson Welles Is Falstaff in Chimes at Midnight (Full Film)

“A Nice Gathering, Isn’t It?” (Orson Welles, Robert Bresson, and Andrei Tarkovsky in Fancy Dress)

Superman’s Pal Orson Welles

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Orson Welles’ Sketchbook: The Early Days

The Orson Welles Show (Unaired Pilot)

 

Orson Welles’ Sketchbook: Critics

Orson Welles and Peter O’Toole on Hamlet

The Orson Welles Story (BBC Documentary)

F for Fake — Orson Welles (Full Film)

Orson Welles Talks About Making Fun of Ernest Hemingway

I Didn’t Like Joshua Cody’s Memoir [sic]

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Joshua Cody’s memoir [sic] showed up at Biblioklept World Headquarters a few weeks ago and despite my prejudices, I coasted through it over a few afternoons.

Those prejudices:

1) It’s a memoir.

2) There’s a Jonathan Franzen blurb on the cover.

3) The title [sic] is an unbearably too-clever pun (and this from a guy who loves puns).

The first thing I noticed about [sic] were the pictures : paintings, maps, charts, sketches, lists, collages, other texts, and so on interspersed throughout the text. I like pictures in books.

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The way that Cody uses these illustrations at first reminded me of  W.G. Sebald, who employed pictures in novels like Austerlitz and The Rings of Saturn in an oblique, documentary approach.

Cody is less oblique than Sebald, and perhaps flippant too. He doesn’t namecheck Sebald, at any rate, unlike David Byrne, who openly admitted to following Sebald’s path in his 2008 memoir Bicycle Diaries. (Cody does namecheck David Byrne though).

Then I edged my way into the plot, such as it is. I’ll lazily let publisher W.W. Norton summarize:

Joshua Cody, a brilliant young composer, was about to receive his PhD when he was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. Facing a bone marrow transplant and full radiation, he charts his struggle: the fury, the tendency to self-destruction, and the ruthless grasping for life and sensation; the encounter with beautiful Ariel, who gives him cocaine and a blow job in a Manhattan restaurant following his first treatment; the detailed morphine fantasy complete with a bride called Valentina while, in reality, hospital staff are pinning him to his bed.

Moving effortlessly between references to Don Giovanni and the Rolling Stones, Ezra Pound and Buffalo Bill, and studded with pages from his own diaries and hospital notebooks, [sic] is a mesmerizing, hallucinatory glimpse into a young man’s battle against disease and a celebration of art, language, music, and life.

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As Norton’s summary suggests, Cody’s memoir is highly discursive and playful, loaded with references to art, music, and literature. Digressions on figures like David Foster Wallace, Orson Welles, or Alexander Theroux lard the book—indeed, they often seem to edge out the story Cody intends to tell, his cancer memoir. He seems reticent to fully engage his own feelings, instead layering reference upon reference. These references become insufferable at times—are we supposed to care that Cody met David Lynch and would like to be his friend, or that Cody briefly studied ancient Greek? Cody is so busy trying to impress the reader that he forgets to express meaning.

We see this reticence, this turning away from, here over two pages: Cody moves from a story about buying a facsimile copy of Pound’s original draft of The Waste Land to a lengthy footnote that manages to name drop James Joyce, T.S. Eliot, Woody Allen, Anaïs Nin, and Henry Miller (in just two sentences!) and then into a facsimile reproduction of one of the stories his brother would write for him as a child:

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The big problem with Cody’s memoir is that it never feels particularly real. I enjoy discursive referential postmodernism as much as the next fella, but [sic] often fails to cohere around a central idea, let alone an emotion. When Cody describes dating a stripper/dominatrix, it feels like a party trick, an inflated anecdote—there’s no emotional core, no contemplative connection to his illness. Other sexual episodes read like a parody of Henry Miller.

As its title suggests, [sic] is a dodge, a bait-and-switch, an evasion. Cody is clearly very clever—but a dazzling display of cleverness can’t sustain a narrative.

Orson Welles as Falstaff in Chimes at Midnight (Full Film)

The Stranger — Orson Welles (Full Film)

The Lady from Shanghai — Orson Welles

RIP Andrew Sarris

RIP film critic Andrew Sarris, 1928-2012.

Sarris wrote film criticism—meaningful, real writing, not just film “reviews”—for half a century, publishing several books, and writing regularly for first The Village Voice and then The New York Observer. Sarris was one of the earliest proponents in the US of the auteur theory of film (he’s credited with coining the word in his essay “Notes on the Auteur Theory in 1962“), first put forward by Truffaut and other persons active in the French New Wave. In 1971, Sarris got into a good ole fashioned fight with fellow film critic Pauline Kael over the auteur issue when he responded to her Citizen Kane essay “Raising Kane,” contending that, yes, the film was guided by the unique vision of Orson Welles (even if others helped). His response essay is still worth reading.

In his 1968 book The American Cinema: Directors and Directions 1929-1968, Sarris famously named a “pantheon” of 14 top-tier directors: here’s that list:

Charlie Chaplin

Robert Flaherty

John Ford

D.W. Griffith

Howard Hawks

Alfred Hitchcock

Buster Keaton

Fritz Lang

Ernst Lubitsch

F.W. Murnau

Max Ophuls

Jean Renoir

Joseph Von Sternberg

Orson Welles

Sarris later added Billy Wilder to this pantheon.

If you like lists, check out this archive of Sarris’s favorite films by year—from 1958 to 2006.

Like any great critic, whether or not one ultimately agreed with Sarris was beside the point—his scholarship and criticism was insightful and enlightening the kind of writing that frankly makes for better film audiences.

For a more detailed obit, check out Scott Tobias’s piece at AV Club.

“They Told Me I Was Everything” — Orson Welles Plays King Lear

Martin Scorsese on Citizen Kane

“I Think I Could Make a Picture Better Than That, But I Haven’t Been Given a Second Chance” — Orson Welles Talks About Making Citizen Kane