The Great Disruptor…The BFI Celebrates the Orson Welles Centenary

culture magazine

Smashbox UK

Our Editor in Chief Claire Meadows reserves her most rapturous adoration especially for her hero Orson Welles.

‘Orson was perhaps the most charismatic, most talented, most revolutionary actor/director of his generation. The reverberations from his performance/directorial decisions can still be felt all these years on’.

Adds Claire ‘Hollywood never knew how to handle him – this wunderkind, this genius was way ahead of his time. He was too good for Hollywood.’

On the day he would have been 100 years old, the BFI announces a major focus on the work of Orson Welles including a two-month season at BFI Southbank, a UK-wide theatrical re-release of Touch of Evil (1958), theatrical and DVD releases of a new documentary Magician: The Astonishing Life and Work of Orson Welles (Chuck Workman, 2014) and a DVD and limited edition Blu-ray release of the television series Around the World with Orson Welles (1955).

A century after his birth and with Citizen Kane (1941) voted Sight & Sound magazine’s greatest film of all time for 50 years, Orson Welles’ position as a titan of cinema is assured and he is one of the few filmmakers that is generally regarded as a true genius.

An artist and innovator who worked in a variety of mediums – on stage, radio and the big and small screen – Welles consistently pushed boundaries, disregarded norms, and flouted conventions, including those of Hollywood.

Orson Welles: The Great Disruptor at BFI Southbank, 1 July – 31 August

During July and August BFI Southbank will screen a comprehensive season of Welles’ work in both film and TV, much of it starring himself. Besides famous classics like his first feature Citizen Kane – often cited as the greatest movie ever made – The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) and The Lady from Shanghai (1948), the season will offer audiences a chance to become acquainted with less familiar titles like The Trial (1962), The Immortal Story (1968) and F for Fake (1976).

It will also include three remarkable adaptations of Shakespeare: Macbeth (1948), Othello (1952) and Chimes at Midnight (1966), the latter compiled from five plays and widely considered a highpoint of Welles’ remarkable career.

The season will be packed with rarities, including the recently discovered Too Much Johnson (1938) – filmed for an ambitious theatrical production two years before he made his feature debut – and six compilation programmes of rarities, featuring shorts, trailers, TV productions, theatrical adaptations, documentaries, and unfinished projects.

There will also be three accompanying talks by season curators Geoff Andrew and Ben Walters and from Welles biographer Simon Callow.

The season will feature extended runs of The Third Man (1949), re-released by Studio Canal in a new 4K restoration in cinemas on 26 June and on DVD and Blu-ray on 20 July, the BFI’s re-release of Touch of Evil, and the BFI release of the fascinating new documentary Magician: The Astonishing Life and Work of Orson Welles.

Touch of Evil (1998 version) – released in selected cinemas UK-wide on 10 July

A BFI release of a UIP film

First press screening: Friday 8 May at 6.30pm at BFI Screening Rooms, 21 Stephen Street, W1

In a seedy US-Mexican border town, detective Miguel Vargas (Charlton Heston) and his newlywed wife Susie (Janet Leigh) become embroiled in a deadly maelstrom of crime and corruption as Miguel’s investigations into narcotics rings bring him into conflict with local law-enforcer Hank Quinlan (Orson Welles). The last feature Welles made in Hollywood, Touch of Evil is a virtuoso foray into film noir, exhibiting his extraordinary sense of cinematic style, vivid characterisation and an almost Shakespearian flair for tragedy. Indeed, there are many who would argue that it rivals Citizen Kane as Welles’ masterpiece. The 1998 version is a re-edit of the original by Walter Murch based on a 58-page memo Welles wrote to Universal with his suggestions of alterations to the studio’s cut.

Magician: The Astonishing Life and Work of Orson Welles – released in selected cinemas UK-wide on 3 July and on BFI DVD on 24 August

A BFI release of a Calliope Films Production, presented by Cohen Media Group

Next press screening: mid-June, details TBC

Magician: The Astonishing Life and Work of Orson Welles is an illuminating, entertaining and ultimately moving new documentary by award-winning filmmaker Chuck Workman. It tells the fascinating story of Welles’ life and career through copious interviews with the great man himself over half a century; through clips from works both familiar and seldom seen; and through testimonies from filmmakers, critics, friends and family members including Martin Scorsese, Peter Bogdanovich, Jeanne Moreau, Charlton Heston, Simon Callow and Richard Linklater, and Welles’ collaborator and companion Oja Kodar.

Around the World with Orson Welles – released on BFI DVD and limited edition Blu-ray on 24 August

Though better known for innovative contributions to radio, film and theatre, Orson Welles also worked in television, often to ground-breaking effect. In 1955, Associated-Rediffusion commissioned Welles to write, direct and host a mini-series. Despite its grand title, the series was filmed entirely in Europe. Part home-movie, part cinematic essay, each episode takes the viewer on a fascinating journey across the continent. In Paris, we are introduced to famous artists such as Jean Cocteau; in Madrid, we attend a bullfight; and in Vienna, in an episode which was long believed lost, we are taken to the locations of The Third Man.

The six episodes that were broadcast on Britain’s then-new ITV channel are:  Pays Basque I; Pays Basque II; The Third Man Returns to Vienna; St.-Germain-des-Prés; Chelsea Pensioners and Madrid Bullfight.


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