Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Hit Me With Your Best Shot: Orson Welles


Well, today Orson Welles would have turned 100.  100!  In order to commemorate this historic birthday, The Film Experience has dedicated this week's Hit Me With Your Best Shot in his honor, challenging us to find shots from one of three of his early works.  We were given the option to go with the beloved debut, Citizen Kane, the beautiful follow-up, The Magnificent Ambersons, or the little talked about film noir, The Lady from Shanghai.  I chose all three.

Like, Orson Welles is one of my favorite filmmakers of ALL TIME, so how could I not.

Now, I could dissect these scenes, but honestly I am feeling a little drained as of late and so I'm going to just briefly explain why these are my favorite shots.  Two of these have a common denominator, but the odd man out is probably my favorite of the bunch.

Here we go!



Citizen Kane


For me, there is an ode to the film's own timelessness here that I find so intoxicating.  The shot is absolutely perfect, played out so fluidly and serves as a visually transcendent narrative that speaks to the film's own 'ahead of it's time' nature.  This film's legacy, it's status in cinematic history, will go on to the ends of time.

The Magnificent Ambersons


Like I said, this odd man out (you'll see the common denominator connecting my next 'shot' with my previous one in a second) is probably my favorite shot of the whole lot, simply because it feels so representative of Welles nature as a filmmaker.  Here he is, observing us observing him and it's eerily compelling and all the more reason why he's a LEGEND.

The Lady of Shanghai


This is not one of my favorite Welles' films.  It's very good, but the studio tampering really dealt a blow to the film's finale.  That being said, Welles' intricate detailing within his direction really anchors this film and shows itself a true savior in moments like this, where the film bleeds with an aching passion that says so much about the people Welles liked to talk about.  That, and it's just breathtaking to look at.

14 comments:

  1. Wonderful choices! The first in particular is so inventively laid out. That shot from Ambersons is striking but when I think of the film it's always the long continuous shot of Agnes Moorehead's breakdown as she moves through the mansion towards the camera.

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    1. Oh, that moment is legend and was in the running, for sure.

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  2. Good choices, Andrew. It's cliche to say, but I do really enjoy watching Citizen Cane, and as a guy who spend most of his free time writing about Moments in movies, this film has so many great shots and scenes. But I'll comment on yours and say it is a great one, as it subtlety creates a long "shadow" of Hearsts fading back into the dark, acting metaphor for the many shade of man he is, was, and will be remembered for. The film is rive with these kinds of hidden gems. Great post.

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    1. Thanks! Yes, Citizen Kane is a bounty of beauty and poignant shots and 'moments'. Picking one was hard, and yet this felt so right.

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  3. Oh these are great choices. My favourite shot of Citizen Kane is the one you chose. I mean one could write a whole chapter on just this shot and all the hidden meaning. The brilliant M.A. is captured with this shot and all the deep focus (thanks Greg Toland). The last shot is again with mirrors and he loved them. He was making this film with his wife when they were having "problems" which is one reason he had her cut off her locks and dyed them platinum. This is a classic shot. Glad you didn't use "Touch of Evil" as i just don't see the big hoo-ha over this flick. The opening shot is excellent but Heston as a Mexican, Dietrich as some Gypsy whatever and McCambridge doing her best impression of Brando from the The Wild Ones made me laugh. Although love the line "You're Fat" given in great German flair by Marlene. Oh and remember I spoke about an experience I had behind the iron Curtain-I talked about it on my Dumb-ass moment that I posted on Monday. I hope you can take a look-let's just say the bunny saved me

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    1. I missed that post, but I'll check it out!

      And, I'm not high on Touch of Evil. It's ok, and Welles is the best part, but Heston is the worst part of everything and the film falls flat in his hands.

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  4. Great work, as usual. There are so many shots to choose from! Love these. Fun fact: Welles currently wins 6 CinSpecs for these films. :)

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    1. I'm sure all six are very deserved!

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  5. Great shots, here. My favorite Welles visual is not a single shot, but short scene from Citizen Kane. It's when Kane walks across the room and slaps his wife. As he is walking toward her and she is backing away from him, the camera retreats with her. At the same time it moves closer to the floor. This low angle combines with the movement of the camera to make us in the viewing audience feel like we've been backed into a corner, too. The feeling is amplified by the wife appearing much smaller than Kane who is now looming large over her. It's an amazing piece of cinematography that puts us into the movie and is still effective 70+ years after the fact.

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    1. I've seen Citizen Kane a handful of times now, and every time I'm just blown away by how ahead of its time it really was, how inventive and truly technically pristine. Like, it's a shame that it wasn't appreciated upon its release the way it is now, because it's a film that still holds up, even now.

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  6. I'm glad TCM is doing something in tribute to Orson Welles as they're showing many of his films on Friday. Could lead to a potential Auteurs piece on him.

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    1. I'm prepared to check in for that!

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  7. joel6 -- that's my favorite moment in ambersons, too!

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