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Some common subjects in the films of Orson Welles:
All of this changes abruptly mid-1947. Welles leaves America for Europe, and his career will never be the same again. Welles mainly stops working in radio drama, which is a dying medium from this point on, one that soon ceases to exist in the United States. He does far less theater work, as well. In 1949, after a number of commercial European film projects fall through, Welles starts filming his self-financed production of Othello. From this point forward, much of Welles' creative work will be self-financed, based on his income as a movie actor.
There will be exceptions to this, especially during a period of temporary commercial success in 1954-1957, when Welles will film:
Welles released three Shakespeare films, that were largely dismissed in their eras. Their reception contrasts with Laurence Olivier's Hamlet, which won Oscars, and which was treated as a major cultural event.
Similarly, Welles' adaptation of Isak Dinesen, The Immortal Story, hardly made a critical ripple. But a later film version of Dinesen, Out of Africa, was showered with Oscars and acclaim.
Welles received and receives almost no recognition from professors who teach literature, or the humanities. While Welles was the major American interpreter of Shakespeare of his era, his adaptations of Shakespeare and other literary authors are treated by non-film professors of the humanities as not being of the slightest interest or value. One can compare the all out efforts made by the academy to promote Existentialism, Deconstructionism and Lacan, to the complete indifference shown to Welles.
The newspaper columns show Welles' interest in repeating vertical lines. One thinks of the hotel windows at the ledge finale of Journey Into Fear, or the arches on the downtown Venice buildings in Touch of Evil. Also the mirrors at the end of The Lady From Shanghai, although these are much narrower vertical panes, and much closer together.
Some of the shots of the baroque architecture of Xanadu at the beginning remind one of the baroque basilica in Sergei Eisenstein's Qué viva Mexico! (1932).
For one thing, it is a spy movie, not a crime thriller. Spy movies became fairly common in the early days of World War II, both in England and the United States. They form an early alternative tradition, one that probably played an influencing role on the rise of film noir. Like many spy movies, Journey Into Fear is set abroad. Also like many spy films, it involves a chase over a great swath of territory, unlike many film noirs, which often take place within a single US city.
It is not clear if there is "alienation and obsession" here, Alain Silver's key identifying characteristics of noir. The hero and the other characters are involved in the fight against Nazis. They are normal people, not people struggling with an emotional obsession. There is paranoia here: Nazi murderers are lurking around every corner. And the way one Nazi villain plays the same record over and over certainly has qualities of obsession. It also shows Welles' constant attempts to experiment with unusual sound.
Both films are crime dramas, with California settings and location photography. Many early scenes in Lady take place in Central America and Mexico; these anticipate the border town that dominates the whole of the later film. The heroine is attacked by a group of young toughs here, in the opening New York sequence; more elaborate attacks occur in the later film. Men keep intruding themselves on the relationship between O'Hara and Hayworth here; more complex intrusions will occur in Touch of Evil.
Both films open with pedestrians walking by a slowly moving vehicle; the pace of the pedestrians and vehicle are counterpointed. Welles seemed to find the balance between the two kinds of movement interesting. The counterpoint is more elaborate in Touch of Evil. There is also the scene in Mr. Arkadin, where the hero and heroine dodge carts on a Spanish road - a similar handcart also shows up in the start of Touch of Evil. Later, in The Immortal Story, the sailor will run along side the slowly moving horse-drawn carriage carrying Mr. Clay. But, rather than counterpoint, the movement is completely synchronized: the hero keeps his hand on the carriage as it moves along.
After the cab ride, O'Hara and Rita Hayworth walk along to the garage, in a long take sequence. This too reminds one of another male-female couple, Heston and Janet Leigh, in their long take walk at the start of Touch of Evil.
One kind of shot in Lady is the long take, in which people arrive and depart, entering and leaving the shot. Shots like this include the scene in which Grisby's body shows up on a stretcher; and the scene where Bannister and his wife are discussing the case before the trial. This kind of shot is used extensively in Touch of Evil. In Lady, the entrance is often used for shock value. For example, O'Hara thinks Grisby is alive; the sudden pulling of his corpse into the shot is terrible, shocking news for him. The staging, with its entrance, underscores the disruption of O'Hara's world. The entrance soon after of the lawyer Bannister suggests further problems for O'Hara: he is the most powerful figure in the film, and the one most likely to be O'Hara's antagonist. So his sudden arrival suggests a further wrenching of O'Hara's life.
Welles weaves his camera through pillared walkways in the Mexico scenes. These too recall the complex opening shot of Touch of Evil, which uses the arched covered sidewalks of the town.
The large beach fire also anticipates the scene of the burning car in Touch of Evil.
Another kind of shot: the dock scenes, which emphasize the vertical patterns formed by the docks. The patterns are hugely complex, and are further elaborated by the camera movement through them. These shots, too, recall those of the opening of Touch of Evil.
After the fake killing, when O'Hara lets off his gun, the docks are still a setting, but they are photographed in a very different way.
Welles liked to set mystery films aboard ship: see the middle sequence of Journey Into Fear, and Dead Calm. There are also sailor heroes in The Immortal Story and Mr. Arkadin, which opens on the harbor in Naples, and which contains some boat scenes.
The brief scene in which O'Hara waits in the kitchen recalls the kitchen scenes in The Magnificent Ambersons. Both kitchens are quite elaborate and imposing.
The curving ramp at the parking garage at the beginning anticipates the ramps down which the characters slide in the fun house at the end.
These similarities in plot do not necessarily extend to style or thematic elements.
Guy Van Stratten (Robert Arden) is a wonderfully sleazy character. He is a sort of low life hustler, of a kind purely confined to the early and middle 1950's. He recalls Ralph Meeker's characterization of Mike Hammer in Kiss Me Deadly (Robert Aldrich, 1955). Both men are all dressed up in flashy, dressy, but somehow vulgar looking clothes. They seem like working class men's idea of cool. There is a sense of pathos in both men. They are working class types, out to try to get a little bit from a world dominated by rich monsters like Arkadin.
The party with the Goya masks shows Welles' deep interest in painting. They recall the Day of the Dead masks worn in Sergei Eisenstein's Qué viva Mexico! (1932), a major influence on Welles' work. The flagellants in Eisenstein's film also anticipate Welles.
The necklace worn by Katina Paxinou is echoed by the blinds of the windows behind her. The two look almost exactly the same, and it is sort of a visual pun.
The Christmas scenes seem almost like a parody of the party in The Magnificent Ambersons. We see the same high ceilinged rooms, the same decorations on every pillar and door frame, the same crowd of merry-making guests.
Around the World with Orson Welles (1955) is a series of 26-minute TV documentaries, made for British television. Five of the episodes survive, and have been collected and released on a DVD. Welles compared the series to home movies. This is a bit misleading. There are travelogue sections shot silent, edited together with narration by Welles - segments that do resemble in form the average person's vacation films of the era. But there are also extensive synch sound interviews with people Welles meets in his travels. These parts are a bit like a talk show, although they are generally set on locations where the person lives, rather than in a studio. In general, Welles resists "voice of authority" narration here, and tries to disguise his comments as elements of conversation with another character. Welles will also frequently show the camera, microphone, and the camera crews filming. It is part of the spectacle.
The best of the series is the one dealing with an intellectual neighborhood of Paris, St.-Germain-des-Près. This features a long interview with Raymond Duncan, an eccentric American artist who was a long time resident. Duncan has a philosophy of doing everything for yourself, and is a craftsman who makes everything from his own printing press and type fonts, to the clothes he wears. It is hard not to compare this to Welles himself, and his do-it-yourself movies. And while Duncan's clothes are extremely unusual, Welles would spend much of his later years in costumes such as long capes and floppy bow ties, that were also both "artistic" and unique. Duncan's other major personal philosophy, never to imitate others or be a conformist, but always to stretch out in one's own direction, could also serve as a credo for Welles. So we are getting a philosophical statement of Welles' own life and beliefs here, as well. Duncan is an articulate man with a rich, resonant voice and a love of Shakespeare, also like Welles himself.
Duncan's authenticity serves as the direct opposite of all the swindlers and forgers to come in F for Fake (1973). He is an artist who represents the antithesis of these painters who use their skills to deceive. Both Welles documentaries have an artist at their center, both take place at least partly in France, both make philosophical statements about authenticity, both include Welles' on-screen presence, both show celebrated French historical buildings and landmarks, both have real intelligentsia filmed, both show scenes of evening life and the French having after hours fun, both show French trains in stations from the outside. Picasso's drawings of bullfighters are discussed in a later episode of Around the World with Orson Welles; a story about Picasso is dramatized in F for Fake.
There is a party atmosphere to this film. Everyone from Art Buchwald's secretary to people on the street look as if they are enjoying being filmed.
The other episodes are not quite as good. Perhaps this simply reflects my own prejudices: films about artists such as St.-Germain-des-Près have always fascinated me. Plus it is hard to resist a portrait of Paris and its intellectual life.
The episode has "intertitles" in the form of brief statements being typed on a reporter's typewriter. These newspaper scenes recall Citizen Kane. They also give a silent movie feel to the episode.
The pan up the newspaper building, the real Herald-Tribune in Paris, is a "Welles shot": a moving camera work that creates a series of compositions-in-motion, based on the complex architecture of the building. In a small, much shorter way, it anticipates the famed moving camera opening of Touch of Evil, to be made the next year. Welles first pans upward, then executes a complex lateral turn. The opening camera movement in Touch of Evil also involves shifts of direction, also in 90 degree turns.
In St.-Germain-des-Près, Welles will have sound-poets give demos of "letterisme", a sound-based art movement of the era. In the later episode, Pays Basque II (La Pelote basque), we will hear the unique long-distance cries of Basque pigeon-netters, and the musical score-keeping announcements during games of pelote. This interest in unique forms of vocal expression perhaps derives from Welles' background in radio.
Welles also includes much about music and dancing in both films. Both films celebrate cultures where intricate dance steps play a major role in ordinary people's entertainment.
Madrid Bullfight and Pays Basque II (La Pelote basque) focus mainly on sports: bullfighting and pelote. Both sports emphasize physical dexterity, and complex movements of the whole body. In this they resemble the dancing that plays a role in both St.-Germain-des-Près and Pays Basque II.
These two sports episodes are the closest in the series to conventional travelogues or documentaries. Both are quite absorbing to watch, and both have a great deal of visual style. Neither quite reaches the level of St.-Germain-des-Près, but both make gripping viewing.
There is much less focus in Welles on actually fighting bulls, than in most films about bullfighting. Instead, Welles depicts the whole surrounding world of the bullfight, from the ranches where the bulls breed, to the architectural details of the arena. The bullfighters are seen not so much as killers, as representatives of a skilled, ancient tradition. This links them to Raymond Duncan, and to Welles himself. Such personal craftsmanship is part of Welles' ideal. Welles is deeply a man of the theater, a 2500 year old skilled profession, and has a "neighborhood grocery store" vision of himself.
One bullfighter's skill as a horseman is emphasized, in a dynamically filmed demonstration. This recalls Welles' character's skill with driving the carriage in The Lady From Shanghai.
The spectacular, Hispanic costumes worn by the matadors, even outside of the ring practicing their horsemanship, add glamour to the proceedings. One also thinks of Brazilian hero of It's All True and the Mexican policeman hero of Touch of Evil. Welles is definitely in touch with the tradition of the Latin Hero that was so important to films from Valentino onward.
Madrid Bullfight has a brief autobiographical moment, in which it is revealed that Welles himself had been a picador in Spain during his youth. There will be a longer autobiographical sequence, in Welles' later documentary, F for Fake.
The arcades that are a Welles trademark show up in the bullring, in the title credits. There are two stories of corridors, with Welles' beloved rounded arches topping pillars at the top. The exterior of the bullring is also full of arched doorways, which form much of the background of the mid-section of the episode. Later, at the farm, we will see bulls driven through a rounded arch into a pen. At the bullring, there is a spectacular view of the cars and pedestrians outside the ring, shot through a scalloped arch. There are similar series of arches in the bullring of Sergei Eisenstein's Qué viva Mexico! (1932), which probably influenced this film.
An overhead shots of the bullpens is one of the most striking in this film - which is all deeply architectural. These bullpens are made up out of the regular, repeated units that recall the San Francisco docks in The Lady From Shanghai and the opening shot arcades in Touch of Evil. Like the docks, and unlike the arcades, the bullpens are mainly rectilinear. Even here, there are some unique narrow doors with arched tops, wide enough for humans but not bulls. Welles uses his trademark somewhat overhead angle to give us a broad, detailed view of the architecture.
Before the bullfight, Welles shows public spectators at galleries, watching bulls in a pen below. The galleries run above the pen, which forms a central courtyard below. This recalls the galleried courtyards in the Tamiroff episode of Mr. Arkadin. Welles loves such multi-storied structures. There are also multistoried arcades on the facade of the church that runs through Pays Basque II (La Pelote basque).
Circular forms play a role as well. We see crowds gathering on curving outdoor staircases near the bullring. And the circular wall of the ring itself is frequently seen in shots.
The Tynans introduce the film standing in front of a wall filled with posters. There are also the notices all over the inside and exterior of Duncan's studio in St.-Germain-des-Près. This anticipates all the Chinese banners and signs that are so important to the compositions in The Immortal Story.
Chelsea Pensioners and Pays Basque I (The Basque Countries) concentrate on interviews with ordinary people. The interviews, with Welles asking them about their lives, recall a bit the framework story of Citizen Kane. These interviews tend to the dull side in terms of content. And there is not much visual interest in such interviews, either. These inoffensive episodes constitute the low point of the series. By contrast, the 11-year-old in Pays Basque II (La Pelote basque) is a natural, offering terrific color commentary throughout.
Chelsea Pensioners deals with retirees in London. Welles presents them as examples of "independent" life, like Duncan in the other film. A call for Americans to resist conformity is issued in many of these episodes. While the series was shown on British TV, the audience addressed philosophically throughout seems to be modern day Americans. Perhaps Welles hoped to sell the show to American TV networks. Welles would move back to the US in October 1955, shortly after completing these films.
The opening of Chelsea Pensioners is shot right across from the stage door of a famed London musical hall, the Hawley Empire. Welles had shot Moby Dick - Rehearsed (1955) there, and he mentions that he had shot "a movie" in this celebrated venue.
For obscure reasons, Welles has the same opening and closing sequences in the two Basque episodes, Pays Basque I (The Basque Countries) and Pays Basque II (La Pelote basque). The shared sequences are very good. Aside from this, part I is mainly a series of interviews, and not very interesting, whereas part II is a beautifully filmed documentary about life, sports and dance in the region.
Both Basque episodes end with the same sequence: a festival with a metallic bull shooting off fireworks, recalling a similar artificial-bull-with-fireworks in Sergei Eisenstein's Qué viva Mexico! (1932). These sequences recall the Chinatown processions near the end of The Lady From Shanghai.
Borders. The Basque episodes open right on the border of France and Spain. Later, there is a sequence of the border being opened to celebrate the holiday of Pentecost. This recalls the border elements of Journey Into Fear and Touch of Evil. The footbridge that links the two sides anticipates the bridge finale of Touch of Evil. In both films, the bridges are full of pedestrians.
Storytelling. Welles' brief discussion of storytelling at the end, invoking Basque traditions, anticipates in a small way the subject matter of The Immortal Story.
Childhood. Pays Basque II (La Pelote basque) contains the most explicit look at childhood in Welles' cinema. The 11-year old hero is depicted as having an ideal existence, getting to take part in traditional sports, music and travel. This echoes the re-creation of traditional US Midwestern lifestyles and amusements that opens The Magnificent Ambersons. It also recalls the earliest scenes of Kane's life. The boy here is privileged over Welles, sitting above him in trees or on walls, and giving Welles the inside scoop on Basque traditions. Welles here reflects other 1950's movies, especially Westerns, which often included boy characters with whom youthful viewers could identify.
We'll start out with a brief discussion of the film's characters and themes. But most of the discussion will be of Welles' visual style. Everyone agrees that Welles' movies do not look like any one else's. Frame after frame of Welles' films contain spectacular compositions that are only found in the work of Orson Welles. These complex, gorgeous images have been dubbed "Welles shots". While the visual aspect of Welles' work is universally admired - "Welles shots" have been famous for sixty years, and were mentioned in the 1950's by Truffaut - there has been little attempt to analyze them in concrete terms. Just what do "Welles shots" consist of? What techniques and approaches are used by Welles to create his famous "Welles shots"?
The characters of rich, unscrupulous business man Mr. Clay and his far more moral, and highly loyal Jewish clerk Mr. Levinsky, recall Citizen Kane and his business manager Mr. Bernstein. The mention of the pogroms which wiped out Elishama Levinsky's family recalls Welles' pioneering discussion of the Holocaust in The Stranger, perhaps the first in any fiction film. The prophecy from Isaiah is one of the few discussions of religion anywhere in the available films of Orson Welles. The first name Elishama also recalls the prophet Elisha.
The woman's somewhat raffish home here recalls Marlene Dietrich's in Touch of Evil. She is telling fortunes, like Marlene's character in the earlier film - a subject that relates to the prophecy that is a central theme of the movie. She also offers skeptical opposition to Welles' character, just like Marlene. The cards look like Tarot cards, just as in Welles' admirer Curtis Harrington, and his Night Tide (1960) and Games (1967), and like Agnès Varda in Cléo de 5 à 7 (1961).
Mr. Clay is a wealthy businessman who winds up alone, in a big house. This recalls Citizen Kane, and The Magnificent Ambersons. Welles himself came from an upper middle class American WASP background, which he recreated in such films as The Magnificent Ambersons and The Stranger.
Mr. Clay has rejected his partner, because he was not able to accept his friendship. This is like Kane's rejection of his best friend Jedediah. Jedediah is often seen as a gay character. Here, Mr. Clay has never been attracted to a woman, and there are suggestions that he is a gay man whose rejection of his partner was based in a lack of acceptance of homosexual relationships, or perhaps a deep coldness. Mr. Clay's hiring of the sailor is also compared by Mr. Levinsky to the heroine's sexual encounter with the sailor - a suggestion that this is a gay relationship at last. This scene includes a long close-up of the sailor's rear, a homosexual overtone.
The sailor is one of many sympathetic sailing men in Welles, such as the heroes of It's All True and The Lady From Shanghai. The hero of Mr. Arkadin is also introduced on the docks. Working class characters in Welles tend to be sailors. The heroes of both The Lady From Shanghai and Mr. Arkadin are hired by unscrupulous, wealthy businessmen, like the sailor in The Immortal Story.
The rest of this article will deal with Welles' visual style.
The title shot shows two sails of a boat in the foreground, and a deep focus stair between two buildings. This is similar to the first shot of Mr. Arkadin, which shows two large pieces of machinery in the foreground, and a deep focus outdoor passage between them. The Mr. Arkadin shot is all on one level, whereas here we already have one of Welles' staircases. This title shot already has two series of Chinese banners, which will play a major role in many of the film's exteriors.
The film's second shot shows a panorama of buildings and balconies. These are full of Chinese banners, shutters, balcony regions, windows, and other rectangular regions, arranged in a series of horizontal bands across the screen. The effect is like a work of abstract painting. Its rectilinear qualities evokes Mondrian. Its bands of abstract images recalls paintings by Klee and Kandinsky. Welles' filmmaking in Citizen Kane recalled German Expressionism, including Fritz Lang. Here he is evoking German abstract painting of the same era.
When the businessmen come out to discuss Mr. Clay, they are shown against another set of buildings with balconies. These too furnish a series of rectilinear regions arranged into a broader grid. Here, many of the regions consist of a series of repeated bars or slats - shutters, staircases, partitions, undersides of balconies. These echoes between the various kinds of repeated bars give a visual unity to the design. It also suggests an ingenious, fascinating world behind the characters - a sort of visual fantasy land in which the eye can wander delightedly. The multi-storied nature of the buildings recalls a bit the multi-storied staircase in The Magnificent Ambersons. Like the staircase in that film, the buildings in The Immortal Story contain angles, including sections which join together at other than 90 degrees. Welles juxtaposes shots of these building sections, stressing the angles between them, and the heads of his players. It gives a complex background to the dialogue. The buildings also recall the balconied, many-storied courtyard of the building housing Akim Tamiroff at the end of Mr. Arkadin.
The file drawers recall the huge filing room in Touch of Evil. Each drawer here is of a different color of wood. They make another series of varied rectangles arranged in horizontal rows, like the opening shots of the film. However, they are stretched out at an angle behind Mr. Levinsky, giving a 3D effect.
Mr. Clay's home has one of the most complex staircases in Welles. This recalls a long tradition of staircase shots, both in Welles, and in the film noir that Welles influenced. Here, pairs of people encounter each other on the stairs, also a Welles tradition. The stair has vertical bars, like the doors in the house, and the balconies outside early in the film.
The sailor runs along with the carriage, holding on to while the horses draw it along. The contrasting rhythms of the horses and the man make one of the best counterpoint effects in Welles. Welles often built scenes out of rhythmic effects: the repeating record at the start of Journey Into Fear, the flashing neon signs in Touch of Evil.
In The Immortal Story, a second mirror is placed at right angles to the infinite repeating mirrors. One can see its frame reflected inside the frame of the repeating mirrors, and vice versa. These mirror frames extend the imagery of box-like rectangular regions, that run through the early sections of the movie. The frames are at right angles to each other, something Welles frequently uses for complex effects in his films: see the famous opening of Touch of Evil, for example.
Later in the film, we see the sailor in the mirrors, walking past, while the early shots show a seated Mr. Clay, eating. The sailor shots are staged so that his reflections come in close pairs, with longer gaps between the pairs. The shots show Welles' delight at experimenting with different kinds of mirror effects in his movies.
The heroine and Levinsky pass by a huge Chinese umbrella, the start of a series of circular forms that will gradually invade the picture. Next, they are in a beautiful shot with mist, also a Sternberg-like effect. They wind up by a building whose step-like, zigzag border is echoed by a series of step-like seats underneath a tree.
The porch at the end has a peaked roof, like the train station to come in F for Fake. An early shot here contrasts the tall vertical rectangle of a doorway to the left, with a squarer region behind Mr. Levinsky to the right. The two regions are in dynamic balance. Later, many shots of the porch will stress that it is partly screened in by lattice work, and partly not, an odd effect. This too will be used to give a sort of balance between two different regions of the shot.
Welles' chair in the finale has a spherical head. It adds curves to the otherwise rectilinear porch. So does the spiral shell.
The shell that falls from Mr. Clay's hand when he dies, recalls the glass snowball in Citizen Kane. It does not shatter, however. It was intended by the sailor as a present for the heroine; instead Mr. Levinsky winds up listening to it, in the film's haunting finale.
Welles is driving a horse-drawn cart in the old photo; he is first seen near a horse-drawn cab in The Lady From Shanghai. The association of Welles and horse-drawn vehicles also recalls The Magnificent Ambersons, and its skepticism about the Automotive Age.
The train station at the film's start has ceilings, that are worked into complex compositions, an ancient Welles tradition. The grill work in the train station also recalls the geometric backgrounds of the walls in Chimes at Midnight and The Immortal Story.
A fine image of Welles shows him talking against a background of orange rectangles. These shapes, beautifully composed, recall the Chinese banners in The Immortal Story. Just as these banners formed rectangular regions in the background of the heroine and Mr. Levinsky during their walk, so do these rectangles form a background for Welles speaking. Their orange color recalls the warm hues of the Chinese banners, which were different shades of orange and orange-red.
F for Fake differs from The Immortal Story, in that these rectangles seem sleekly modernistic. They look like the sort of design that might be found in a glittering modern day office building. Some of Welles' later projects will have this sort of modernistic set design, including the pilot for Welles' unsold TV talk-show (1978-1979). The talk show pilot will be made a few years after F for Fake, and have the same sort of warm, utterly vivid and burning colors. Both will be filmed by Gary Graver.
The rectangles also differ in that they are hollow inside, while the Chinese banners are solid.
The material throughout the film is carefully edited. In fact, much of the film can be described as montage. The editing is most elaborate, creating complex rhythmic patterns, and strange echoes between each pair of shots that are joined together. Much of the claim of F for Fake to be considered as a work of art, centers on the editing of the film. The emphasis on editing, combined with the scenes of the film itself being edited on a moviola, recall The Man With a Movie Camera (Dziga Vertov, 1928). Welles' film is as much of a montage film, as are many of the early Soviet classics. In addition to the reels of film, Welles also cuts back and forth between "reality", and the film being edited in a smaller screen. The effect is often startling.
The sections with Irving & Elmyr thematically recall the early sequences on the boat in The Lady From Shanghai. Once again, we have Welles as the bemused spectator, involved with a group of strange and sinister people. These people seem full of complex, interlocking relationships with each other, that are constantly shifting in appearance. Welles is in their world in both films, not his own, a world that is semi-tropical in climate, and full of a sinister luxury in setting and living conditions. Both worlds are heavily influenced by lawyers, and legal considerations and schemes.
Welles' narration expresses much skepticism about art experts, those people who claim to be able to tell real paintings from forgeries, purely on the basis of visual style. Later sections of the film express a more complex skepticism about the art of Picasso, himself. One recalls seeing Welles on the Tonight Show, ridiculing the work of Christo, the artist who specialized in wrapping cliffs and other large outdoor art installations. Clearly, the world of modern art was important to Welles, and he had strong beliefs about it.
The end of the autobiographical section deals with Welles' proposed film about Howard Hughes. Here we see a wealth of newsreel images of Hughes, combined with some still photographs. These newsreels seem to have been a primary source of inspiration to Martin Scorsese on his biopic about Hughes, The Aviator (2004). Many of the scenes in them are recreated in Scorsese's picture - not surprisingly, as they present key moments in Hughes' life. Welles' treatment of Hughes is far more negative than Scorsese's, viewing Hughes as another of the con men who are the subject of F for Fake.
The F for Fake Trailer (1976) is a nine-minute short film, created by Orson Welles as a trailer for his movie F for Fake. It is far from being any sort of conventional Coming Attractions. Instead, it should be considered as a short film in its own right, albeit one with close ties to F for Fake.
Oja Kodar is presented in the F for Fake Trailer as an International Woman of Mystery. The shots of her and the tiger make her character seem like a dangerous-but-sexy woman, recalling Rita Hayworth in The Lady From Shanghai.
Several of the shots involve more than one image of a person. Welles uses a number of strategies to accomplish this:
The multiple images of people recall the finale of The Lady From Shanghai. In that film, a Hall of Mirrors created the multiple images. Here, it is filming strategies. But the compositional effect is often surprisingly similar. The F for Fake Trailer also has a strong rhythmic pulse, also like the finale of The Lady From Shanghai.
Rectangles often frame the characters in the F for Fake Trailer. Photographs of the characters are accompanied by prominent borders. These also form rectangles behind the characters.