Orson Welles was and is one of the most beloved and well known of Hollywood’s pantheon.
He was an actor, director, radio personality and as Mark Cousins explores here, a painter. Many would question what more could be said about Welles, there are countless books, films, television shows written about him, yet, Cousins offers a new perspective, a much more intimate one. The legend of Welles is so engrained in Hollywood that one can easily forget he was just a man as flawed and as fascinating as the rest of us.
Welles was a product of the 20th-century through and through, he also helped to define it. Cousins is looking back at his life in our new century in a way most don’t realise you can – through Welles’ own eyes. With access to many never before seen paintings and drawings by Welles, they offer a new look into his life, past the showmanship and mystique, into a darker, more personal world.
Cousins decided to frame the film as a letter to Welles, telling him of our strange new self-parody world of Trump and the internet. The narration by Cousins himself is like a cathartic series of musings, a giggle at what Welles would think of America now and the frustration that we will never know.
Broken down into a series of major themes in Welles’ work, the film is as funny as it is poetic. There were a number of crucial themes to his life that seemed to haunt Welles in his drawings. The cinema of Welles was one of grandeur and larger than life characters, his paintings were dark reflections on both himself and how he saw the world.
Yet there was also great joy in what he painted, he loved to travel and fell in love with places like Ireland and Morocco – the escapism for him as his films are to us. Cousins has framed him as a man of strong will and deep love, he poured himself into every aspect of his life.
Much like the life of Welles himself, this is a film that seeks understanding through art and self-refection along with it. For lovers of Welles, this is essential viewing and for those unfamiliar, it is a brilliant introduction.