RECENT GENERATIONS of film buffs and critics have done impressive work repairing what was a fractured view of Orson Welles' career, both in front of and behind the camera. Moving straight from his pioneering work in Citizen Kane and The Third Man to his days as a slurring pitchman hawking wine no longer seems appropriate; what has emerged instead is a much more complex assessment of Welles' lengthy career in show business.
Orson Welles at 100, the retrospective that kicks off this Saturday at the NW Film Center, brings together a wide array of movies that reflect our current understanding of Welles' work as director and actor. This overview takes into account works that made him a legend, like 1941's Kane and his infamously troubled masterpiece The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), while also offering up less-appreciated gems.
A few to keep on your radar are espionage thriller Journey Into Fear (1943), in which Welles has a minor but very memorable role as a Turkish police captain; his bold yet sensitive performance as Falstaff in 1965's fascinating Shakespeare amalgam Chimes At Midnight; and his brooding turn in Compulsion (1959), where he plays an attorney in the famous Leopold and Loeb murder trial.
Even if you only catch a handful of the 17 films in the Film Center's series, you'll be able to appreciate Welles' startling evolution as a director—the hard angles and creeping shadows of German expressionism slowly giving way to the influence of the jump cut-happy anarchy of the French New Wave. For three decades, Welles never stopped exploring and striving—leaving behind a body of work that will undoubtedly delight, fascinate, and frustrate future generations of cinephiles.