Fellow Movie Lovers
ME AND ORSON WELLES
This film focuses on a small episode in the life of Orson Welles. Richard Linklater’s adaptation of Robert Kaplow’s novel should be seen by all devotees of Orson Welles, one of the most remarkable minds of the twentieth century; William Shakespeare, the undisputed titian of the written word and those who willingly shed the travails of their lives, and use, in this instance, the darkened theatre as a time machine to scroll back to the year 1937, the nadir of the depression.
Orson Welles (1915-1985) was the son of gifted parents; his father an inventor, his mother a beautiful concert pianist, both dead by the time he was fifteen. A prodigy from birth: pianist, painter, magician, actor, director, and writer. Midas in all in touched, just twenty-one in 1937, directing and performing (Brutus) in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar at the Mercury Theatre in New York. It is staged in contemporary attire, very iconoclastic and avant-garde for the times. A precursor to Barbara Gaines, the founder and Artistic Director of the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre.
Me and Orson Welles, incredibly casted, revolves around Richard (Zac Efron) who at seventeen feels destined to be an actor; Sonja (Claire Danes) Orson’s “girl Friday”, also yearning for discovery and Orson (Christian McKay, uncanny in his resemblance to the actual Orson Welles) who is a master of manipulation and intimidation.
This is a play within a play luminously acted by all the major and minor characters but as I watched and relished the movie I could not help but dwell on the fact that we excuse in geniuses flaws and cruelties that we would not tolerate in lesser mortals.
Orson Welles said of himself, “I have an unfortunate personality”. He used his stratospheric talents (Citizen Kane, The Magnificent Ambersons, War of the Worlds) to achieve his goals, denigrating and destroying those less equipped to challenge his monumental mind, will and ego.
Rita Hayworth (one of his three wives) said upon their divorce, “I can’t take his genius anymore” a testimony of conflicts unresolved, at least in her estimation.
But Orson Welles stated: “a film is never really good unless the camera is an eye in the head of a poet”. The success of this film attests to the insightful and poetic eye of Richard Linklater.