Video Essay. Orson Welles: Who Is This Man?

The shapeshifting contradictions of Orson Welles were captured on film over a hundred times, for the better part of half a century.
Luís Azevedo

Orson Welles's Touch of Evil (1958) is showing May 6 - June 5, 2018 in many countries around the world; and The Trial (1962) is showing May 6 - June 5, 2018 in the United States.

The perpetrator of the radio hoax of the century, the voice of Unicron—nemesis of Primus in the battle for 4-wheeled multiverse domination—or the director of the ex-best movie of all-time. Who is Orson Welles?

Both his laudable first attempt at movie making (Citizen Kane) and his last essayistic masterpiece (F for Fake) are plagued by similar concerns. As a director, whether in the act of mythmaking and mythbusting, or forging and faking, Welles’ career stands as a living testament to the obsession with putting truth under a lens and exploring the lies told through film.  

As an actor, Welles embraced the lie, shape shifting back and forth between numerous roles, from the Shakespearean Othello, MacBeth or Falstaff, to the slippery Harry Lime from The Third Man. Alas, the bulk of the roles he played were modified versions of himself or his public persona, hiding in plain sight, often behind the metamorphosing Wellesian rubber nose—which David Cairns and Randall William Cook wonderfully explored in this video essay.

The contradictions of Orson Welles were captured on film over a hundred times, for the better part of half a century. Despite his acting destiny, Welles was committed to play characters starkly dissimilar from himself from the start. He played a fat 60-year-old in his early 20s only to become a portly 60-year-old by his mid 50s. These roles amount to an exceedingly heterogeneous body of work worth studying and, for my purposes, worth re-contextualizing.  

At the core of the audiovisual essay, there’s a mischievous commitment to take the past and make it present through a non-linear editing system. One could hardly ask for a better source material than a body of work cultivated with a utter disregard for linear time.

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