24 February 2021

Bangkok Screening Room

Bangkok Screening Room
The Third Man
Bangkok Screening Room, the boutique independent cinema, will be closing at the end of next month. Like other entertainment venues in Bangkok and elsewhere, BKKSR has borne the brunt of the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic. All cinemas in Bangkok were closed in April and May last year, during the country’s first coronavirus lockdown, and since reopening they have been operating at limited capacity to maintain social distancing.

BKKSR opened in 2016, and quickly established itself as the city’s leading arthouse cinema. It offered a unique Hollywood and world cinema repertory programme, plus screenings of contemporary Thai indie films, and revivals of Thai classics. The BKKSR team also curated seasons dedicated to marginalised filmmakers, including an LGBT+ Film Festival, a Global Migration Film Festival, and a Fem Film Festival.

BKKSR’s inaugural screening was The Third Man, starring Orson Welles, and fittingly this classic film noir will also be the last film screened there, on 31st March. (It will also be shown on 19th, 21st, 23rd, 25th, 27th, and 28th March.) BKKSR is the second Bangkok cinema to close as a result of the pandemic, after the Scala shut its doors last year. (Also, Cinema Oasis has been closed indefinitely since last March.)

26 January 2019

Touch of Evil

Touch of Evil
Touch of Evil
Touch of Evil, the classic Orson Welles film noir, will be shown at Smalls tomorrow. The screening, on the rooftop of the Bangkok bar, is free of charge.

01 August 2017

Bangkok Screening Room

Touch Of Evil
After Citizen Kane in May and June, Bangkok Screening Room will be showing another Orson Welles masterpiece this month: Touch Of Evil. The film noir classic will be screened on 15th, 16th, 19th, 20th, 23rd, 25th, 26th, 27th, 29th, 30, and 31st August; and 1st and 2nd September.

Bangkok Screening Room is Bangkok's premiere venue for classic Thai and Hollywood films. Less than a year since it opened, this superior repertory cinema has already shown Tears Of The Black Tiger, Sunset Boulevard, Uncle Boonmee, Vertigo, Casablanca, and Dr Strangelove,.

Bangkok Screening Room

Touch Of Evil
After Citizen Kane in May and June, Bangkok Screening Room will be showing another Orson Welles masterpiece this month: Touch Of Evil. The film noir classic will be screened on 15th, 16th, 19th, 20th, 23rd, 25th, 26th, 27th, 29th, 30, and 31st August; and 1st and 2nd September.

Bangkok Screening Room is Bangkok's premiere venue for classic Thai and Hollywood films. Less than a year since it opened, this superior repertory cinema has already shown Tears Of The Black Tiger, Sunset Boulevard, Uncle Boonmee, Vertigo, Casablanca, and Dr Strangelove,.

24 May 2017

Bangkok Screening Room

Stagecoach
Citizen Kane
Later this month, Bangkok Screening Room will be showing John Ford's classic western, Stagecoach, the film that revived the Hollywood western and established many of the genre's modern conventions. Orson Welles claimed that he watched Stagecoach every night for a month, while he was preparing to direct Citizen Kane, his first film. Citizen Kane, arguably the most influential film ever made, will be shown at Bangkok Screening Room next month.

Stagecoach will be shown on 30th and 31st May; and 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 7th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 14th, 15th, 17th, and 18th June. Citizen Kane will be screened on 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th, 20th, 21st, and 24th June.

Bangkok Screening Room

Stagecoach
Citizen Kane
Later this month, Bangkok Screening Room will be showing John Ford's classic western, Stagecoach, the film that revived the Hollywood western and established many of the genre's modern conventions. Orson Welles claimed that he watched Stagecoach every night for a month, while he was preparing to direct Citizen Kane, his first film. Citizen Kane, arguably the most influential film ever made, will be shown at Bangkok Screening Room next month.

Stagecoach will be shown on 30th and 31st May; and 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 7th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 14th, 15th, 17th, and 18th June. Citizen Kane will be screened on 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th, 20th, 21st, and 24th June.

15 September 2016

Bangkok Screening Room

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
Vertigo
The Third Man
Godzilla
A new independent cinema, Bangkok Screening Room, will open next week. The venue, in Silom, will have a 4k projector and fifty seats. Its inaugural programme includes both Thai and Hollywood classics.

Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives will be shown on 23rd to 25th, 27th, 28th, 30th September; and 1st, 2nd, 4th, 6th to 9th October. Carol Reed's The Third Man, starring Orson Welles, will be screened on 22nd, 24th, 25th, 29th September; and 1st, 4th October. Ishiro Honda's Godzilla (which played at the 22nd Open Air Film Festival) is on 5th, 8th, 30th September; and 2nd, 5th October. Alfred Hitchcock's masterpiece Vertigo will be shown on 6th, 8th, 11th, 20th, 22nd, 25th, 27th, and 30th October.

06 January 2016

Magician

Magician
Magician: The Astonishing Life & Work Of Orson Welles, directed by Chuck Workman, is a documentary profile of Welles covering his work for theatre, radio, and cinema. It's a broad survey of his entire career, featuring clips from all of his completed films, divided chronologically into five chapters (1915-1941: The Boy Wonder, 1942-1949: The Outsider, 1950-1957: The Gypsy, 1958 to 1966: The Road Back, and 1966-1985: The Master).

Welles wrote and directed Citizen Kane, probably the greatest film ever made. His other films include The Magnificent Ambersons, The Stranger, The Lady From Shanghai, Touch Of Evil, F For Fake, several other features and shorts, and numerous incomplete films and scripts. (Extracts from the unfinished films are included in Orson Welles: The One-Man Band.)

Welles was also a film and stage actor, and one of the most innovative theatre and radio producers of the last century. He wrote newspaper columns and political speeches, directed television documentaries, and even edited and illustrated editions of Shakespeare's plays. But as Magician is only ninety minutes long, there's not enough time for it to cover any of these achievements in much depth.

Magician features interviews with Welles scholars including Joseph McBride (author of Orson Welles), Jonathan Rosenbaum (author of Discovering Orson Welles), Henry Jaglom (author of My Lunches With Orson), and Peter Bogdanovich (author of This Is Orson Welles, edited by Rosenbaum). It also includes contributions from Welles's daughters Beatrice and Christopher, and his long-term partner, Oja Kodar.

Most of Welles's biographical details are provided by Welles himself in clips from his TV interviews, especially the two-part Arena profile The Orson Welles Story (BBC2, 1982). Welles was an excellent raconteur, but his stories were often heavily embellished, so it's a shame that Magician relies on them unquestioningly. Only once is a Welles story challenged - his account of how he asked for a fee to adapt a random book that he picked up - though only a technicality is queried (his $47,000 or $55,000 fee), when it might be more appropriate to question the entire anecdote. (The book, which became The Lady From Shanghai, was actually optioned by William Castle, who sent it to Welles.)

Magician

Magician
Magician: The Astonishing Life & Work Of Orson Welles, directed by Chuck Workman, is a documentary profile of Welles covering his work for theatre, radio, and cinema. It's a broad survey of his entire career, featuring clips from all of his completed films, divided chronologically into five chapters (1915-1941: The Boy Wonder, 1942-1949: The Outsider, 1950-1957: The Gypsy, 1958 to 1966: The Road Back, and 1966-1985: The Master).

Welles wrote and directed Citizen Kane, probably the greatest film ever made. His other films include The Magnificent Ambersons, The Stranger, The Lady From Shanghai, Touch Of Evil, F For Fake, several other features and shorts, and numerous incomplete films and scripts. (Extracts from the unfinished films are included in Orson Welles: The One-Man Band.)

Welles was also a film and stage actor, and one of the most innovative theatre and radio producers of the last century. He wrote newspaper columns and political speeches, directed television documentaries, and even edited and illustrated editions of Shakespeare's plays. But as Magician is only ninety minutes long, there's not enough time for it to cover any of these achievements in much depth.

Magician features interviews with Welles scholars including Joseph McBride (author of Orson Welles), Jonathan Rosenbaum (author of Discovering Orson Welles), Henry Jaglom (author of My Lunches With Orson), and Peter Bogdanovich (author of This Is Orson Welles, edited by Rosenbaum). It also includes contributions from Welles's daughters Beatrice and Christopher, and his long-term partner, Oja Kodar.

Most of Welles's biographical details are provided by Welles himself in clips from his TV interviews, especially the two-part Arena profile The Orson Welles Story (BBC2, 1982). Welles was an excellent raconteur, but his stories were often heavily embellished, so it's a shame that Magician relies on them unquestioningly. Only once is a Welles story challenged - his account of how he asked for a fee to adapt a random book that he picked up - though only a technicality is queried (his $47,000 or $55,000 fee), when it might be more appropriate to question the entire anecdote. (The book, which became The Lady From Shanghai, was actually optioned by William Castle, who sent it to Welles.)

02 December 2014

The Lost Tapes Of Orson Welles

The Lost Tapes Of Orson Welles was broadcast on the BBC World Service on 30th November, as part of the series The Documentary. It will be repeated tomorrow, and it was first broadcast in two episodes on Radio 4 last year (episode one on 19th December, and episode two on 26th December).

The programme was presented by Christopher Frayling (author of numerous books, including The 2001 File, Ken Adam Designs The Movies, Ken Adam & The Art Of Production Design, Spaghetti Westerns, Once Upon A Time In Italy, and Something To Do With Death) and featured extracts of conversations between Orson Welles and Henry Jaglom. The recordings were made at the LA restaurant Ma Maison, between 1983 and 1985 (the year Welles died).

The tapes were also transcribed in the book My Lunches With Orson, and the programme includes interviews with Jaglom and the book's editor, Peter Biskind. The book's release led to a debate about how much consent Welles had given to the recording or publication of the tapes, though the programme doesn't address that issue. In fact, the background to the tapes is presented in a surprisingly cliched, simplistic way: "Jaglom met Orson... and the pair soon became firm friends".

The Jaglom tapes have a predecessor with a more reliable provenance: tapes recorded by Peter Bogdanovich, who interviewed Welles from 1969 onwards. The Bogdanovich tapes were released on four audio cassettes in 1992, and transcribed in the book This Is Orson Welles; they were edited with Welles's co-operation, and some material was redacted at his request. (Audio extracts were included on the French DVD La Splendeur Des Amberson.) In contrast, Welles had no control over the Jaglom tapes after they were recorded, and therefore they offer a more candid portrait of the director.

The Lost Tapes Of Orson Welles

The Lost Tapes Of Orson Welles was broadcast on the BBC World Service on 30th November, as part of the series The Documentary. It will be repeated tomorrow, and it was first broadcast in two episodes on Radio 4 last year (episode one on 19th December, and episode two on 26th December).

The programme was presented by Christopher Frayling (author of numerous books, including The 2001 File, Ken Adam Designs The Movies, Ken Adam & The Art Of Production Design, Spaghetti Westerns, Once Upon A Time In Italy, and Something To Do With Death) and featured extracts of conversations between Orson Welles and Henry Jaglom. The recordings were made at the LA restaurant Ma Maison, between 1983 and 1985 (the year Welles died).

The tapes were also transcribed in the book My Lunches With Orson, and the programme includes interviews with Jaglom and the book's editor, Peter Biskind. The book's release led to a debate about how much consent Welles had given to the recording or publication of the tapes, though the programme doesn't address that issue. In fact, the background to the tapes is presented in a surprisingly cliched, simplistic way: "Jaglom met Orson... and the pair soon became firm friends".

The Jaglom tapes have a predecessor with a more reliable provenance: tapes recorded by Peter Bogdanovich, who interviewed Welles from 1969 onwards. The Bogdanovich tapes were released on four audio cassettes in 1992, and transcribed in the book This Is Orson Welles; they were edited with Welles's co-operation, and some material was redacted at his request. (Audio extracts were included on the French DVD La Splendeur Des Amberson.) In contrast, Welles had no control over the Jaglom tapes after they were recorded, and therefore they offer a more candid portrait of the director.

15 February 2014

12 Angry Men & Citizen Kane

12 Angry Men & Citizen Kane
12 Angry Men
Citizen Kane
The Thai Film Archive in Salaya will screen two Hollywood classics later this month. Sidney Lumet's courtroom (or rather, jury room) drama 12 Angry Men will be shown on 23rd February; and Citizen Kane, the masterpiece by Orson Welles (and arguably the greatest film ever made), will be screened on 28th February.

12 Angry Men & Citizen Kane

12 Angry Men & Citizen Kane
12 Angry Men
Citizen Kane
The Thai Film Archive in Salaya will screen two Hollywood classics later this month. Sidney Lumet's courtroom (or rather, jury room) drama 12 Angry Men will be shown on 23rd February; and Citizen Kane, the masterpiece by Orson Welles (and arguably the greatest film ever made), will be screened on 28th February.

07 August 2013

My Lunches With Orson

My Lunches With Orson
My Lunches With Orson: Conversations Between Henry Jaglom & Orson Welles was edited by Peter Biskind, author of Easy Riders, Raging Bulls. The book is a series of transcripts of conversations recorded at the Ma Maison restaurant in Hollywood, in the years before Welles died.

There's an obvious comparison to be made between My Lunches With Orson and This Is Orson Welles, a book of Peter Bogdanovich's interviews with Welles published in 1992. In fact, Bogdanovich introduced Welles to Jaglom: "In 1970 I had introduced Orson to my old friend, filmmaker Henry Jaglom... When Orson and I fell out, Henry stepped in to fill that sort of role in Orson's life". My Lunches With Orson and This Is Orson Welles both contain transcripts of tapes recorded years before they were published, though their contents are quite different.

This Is Orson Welles was an attempt to preserve Welles's account of his entire life and work, one of several such projects Welles collaborated on shortly before he died. (The others were an authorised biography, Orson Welles by Barbara Leaming; and an extended BBC Arena interview, The Orson Welles Story.) The book was written with Welles's co-operation, and he redacted any material he didn't like. (Welles wrote to Bogdanovich: "I said that [name deleted] ought to be put in jail. Well, let's commute the sentence. The book doesn't need it".)

In contrast, after his conversations with Jaglom, Welles did not collaborate on the editing of My Lunches With Orson. In fact, it's debatable whether or not he even knew that Jaglom planned to publish the material. Thus, the result is far more candid than This Is Orson Welles. Welles is surprisingly frank about his personal life ("I loved her, yeah. Very much. But, by that time, not sexually. I had to work myself up to fuck her") and his associates (including Bogdanovich, who he calls "your friend"; Jaglom reminds him: "He was your friend, too").

Welles sometimes appears pretentious: a simple question from a waiter ("And roast pork?") prompts a long quotation from The Merchant Of Venice ("Bassanio says to Shylock..."), while the waiter waits patiently to take Welles's order. Also, his inability to negotiate is extraordinary: Welles starts pitching a mini-series to an HBO executive, though he gives up almost immediately. The executive insists that "it does interest me very much", though Welles responds defensively: "You're wrong. You're really wrong. Boy, are you wrong". Ultimately, the exasperated executive walks out.

Biskind's introduction to the book is quite superficial, recycling well-known details about Welles's Hollywood productions (from Citizen Kane to Touch Of Evil), but skirting over the Shakespeare films in a single sentence. Biskind also claims that Welles "unofficially directed" The Stranger, although he was officially credited as its director. There's no index, and only limited endnotes.

This Is Orson Welles has a more formal Welles interview, and Discovering Orson Welles and Orson Welles At Work have more research about Welles's career, though My Lunches With Orson is a fascinating series of informal conversations. It's pure gossip, but it reveals another side to one of the cinema's greatest directors.

01 February 2010

Orson Welles: The One-Man Band

Orson Welles: The One-Man Band
Orson Welles: The One-Man Band, directed by Vassili Silovic with Ojar Kodar, features clips and out-takes from various unfinished Orson Welles films. The footage was left to Kodar by Welles in his will, and the film's title comes from a sketch in which Welles played both a busker and his unappreciative audience. (Welles saw himself metaphorically not as a one-man band but as a "friendly neighbourhood grocery store" in an age of supermarkets.)

The documentary includes extracts from The Other Side Of The Wind, which resembles Easy Rider with its zooms and jump cuts. Impressive footage from The Merchant Of Venice (Welles as Shylock, with gothic locations and masked extras), The Deep (later filmed by Phillip Noyce), and the television pilot The Orson Welles Show (featuring the Muppets!) is also included. In one hilarious clip, a butler who thinks he's a chicken keeps his job because his employer needs the eggs; this traditional joke later appeared at the end of Woody Allen's Annie Hall. Footage of Welles reading from the novel Moby Dick now appears somewhat dated, and there is unfortunately no mention of Don Quixote.

An alternate version of the documentary, narrated by Welles acolyte Peter Bogdanovich, also exists. Filmographies of unfinished Welles projects are included in Discovering Orson Welles and Orson Welles At Work.

12 January 2010

Orson Welles At Work

Orson Welles At Work
Orson Welles At Work, by Jean-Pierre Berthome and Francois Thomas, was originally published in French, as Orson Welles Au Travail. The production histories of Welles's films are accompanied by large production stills, storyboards, and annotated script pages, using materials obtained from archival research.

There is a detailed Welles bibliography and filmography, and a brief chronology. Jonathan Rosenbaum's Discovering Orson Welles features a comparable filmography; Peter Bogdanovich's This Is Orson Welles has a more detailed chronology (compiled by Rosenbaum), plus appendices on The Magnificent Ambersons and Touch Of Evil. The ...At Work series also includes Bill Krohn's acclaimed Hitchcock At Work, about Alfred Hitchcock.

21 August 2009

Discovering Orson Welles

Discovering Orson Welles
Discovering Orson Welles is a compilation of articles about Welles by Jonathan Rosenbaum. There are a few essays and film criticism pieces, though many articles are less substantial: book reviews, notes, and other ephemera. In fact, what's most interesting here are not Rosenbaum's comments on Welles but rather his comments on other Welles books. He also presents a useful survey of the various versions of every Welles film, and discusses his contribution to the restoration of Touch Of Evil.

Rosenbaum's annotations are too "autobiographical in nature", and he tends to "spin out" his single meeting with Welles - both of which he acknowledges in his introduction. Despite this, however, Rosenbaum is the ideal Welles scholar, more objective and meticulous than acolytes such as Barbara Leaming or Peter Bogdanovich. Also, his criticisms of both Pauline Kael and David Thomson are very welcome.

03 March 2008

The Stranger

The Stranger
The Stranger was the first film directed by Orson Welles following his Rio documentary It's All True. His work on It's All True earned Welles an unfair reputation: that he was profligate and extravagant. The Stranger was a conscious (and successful) attempt to prove otherwise - to show that he could make a regular, popular film within the studio system, on-budget and on-schedule.

In the film, Welles plays a Nazi war criminal (the architect of the Holocaust, no less) who has changed his identity and escaped to a small American town. He marries a judge's daughter, played by Loretta Young, to keep up appearances. Edward G Robinson plays a detective attempting to track him down.

A similar situation occurs in Alfred Hitchcock's Notorious, made in the same year, with the major difference being the role of the Nazi's wife: Loretta Young's extremely naive character is very different from the Ingrid Bergman role in Notorious. A more general comparison could be made with Hitchcock's Shadow Of A Doubt, in which a killer seeks refuge in a small American town; in that film, it is the killer's sister who is (initially) as naively unsuspecting as Young is in The Stranger. Welles's line about watching people from the clock tower "like God, looking at little ants" anticipates his role in The Third Man, when he looks down from the ferris wheel at the "dots" below.

The Stranger is a less personal project than Welles's other films, though it does include numerous high-angle and low-angle shots which add visual interest. The dark lighting and heavy shadows are not only typical of early Welles but also typical of the period, as by this point film noir had caught up with Welles's eccentric cinematography. (Welles later directed the final film in the classic noir cycle, Touch Of Evil.)

23 January 2006

Touch Of Evil (preview)

Touch Of Evil
Touch Of Evil, directed by Orson Welles, was the last of Hollywood's initial film noir cycle, bookending a trend that began with The Maltese Falcon. It's an exceptionally dark film; literally so, because several scenes take place in almost pitch blackness. Like all great noir films about high-level police corruption, it has a superb sense of authority and gravitas that it takes great pleasure in unravelling in its conclusion.

The opening shot is one of the greatest sequences in cinema: a four-minute crane shot following an American couple as they cross the Mexican border. When Welles was interviewed for This Is Orson Welles, he said that, with hindsight, he disliked the bravura of this opening shot, pointing out that there is another, longer, more complex crane shot later in the film. This later shot, in which the camera moves through several rooms of an apartment, is less flamboyant and therefore, according to Welles, more of an achievement.

Famously, the film was altered by Universal against Welles's wishes. Some extra exposition scenes were added, and the film was re-edited behind his back. Welles wrote a long memo to the studio, arguing eloquently against the revised version ("In most cases, I can see, or guess, the point of view which has motivated the change, even when I don't happen, personally, to agree with it"), though most of his requests were refused.

In 1976, a longer version of the film was released. This restoration (the version I've seen), while marketed as a director's cut, is more accurately a compromise between the studio's version and Welles's intended vision. It does restore several key scenes originally removed by the studio, though it also retains the non-Welles sequences that the studio added. Finally, in 1998, most of the non-Welles scenes were removed, and the film was re-edited in accordance with Welles's memo.

One last point: in Touch Of Evil, Janet Leigh stays as the only guest at an isolated motel, staffed by a nervous desk-clerk; two years later, in Psycho, Janet Leigh stayed as the only guest at an isolated motel, staffed by a nervous desk-clerk. Admittedly, she isn't murdered in Touch Of Evil (in fact, perhaps to appease the censors, it's made unrealistically clear that she is never harmed), though the situation is strikingly similar nonetheless.