'This Is Orson Welles': Cannes Review

Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival
An entry-level Welles documentary.

Clara and Julia Kuperberg's documentary is Welles 101.

This Is Orson Welles is an elementary-school primer on the subject of the great and complex cinematic maverick. Packed out with public-domain stock footage, recycled Welles interview material, very little footage from his films (including nothing from his European period) and knowledgable but very basic comments from an inner circle of Welles experts, this French-made doc was shown in Cannes Classics as part of the filmmaker’s centenary tribute and will be broadcast locally on TCM France.

Instead of saying anything personal or revealing about her father, Welles’ oldest daughter, Christopher, concentrates on the celebrities she met as a child — especially her stepmother Rita Hayworth — and on her father’s interest in magic. With little mention of Welles' >unusual youth, the film breezes through his landmark work in theater (it does include brief footage of his all-black Macbeth) and radio until it gets to something sensational: his famous and oft-rehashed The War of the Worlds broadcast.

Younger Welles colleagues Peter Bogdanovich, Henry Jaglom and Joseph McBride are all asked to relate at length how they met the great one and are articulate on the man they knew during the last, artistically frustrated part of his life. But they are not pressed to go deep or become analytical, so the film will function as nothing more than a basic introduction for people who know nothing about Welles and might be sitting down to watch Citizen Kane for the first time on TCM.

Production: TCM Cinema, Wichita Films

Cast: Peter Bogdanovich, Henry Jaglom, Martin Scorsese, Christopher Welles, Joseph McBride

Directors: Clara Kuperberg, Julia Kuperberg

Writers: Clara Kuperberg, Julia Kuperberg

No rating, 53 minutes