Working With Orson Welles

Along with Oja Kodar, cinematographer and low-budget filmmaker Gary Graver was the most faithful and indefatigable of Orson Welles’s collaborators over the last quarter century of his life, and this endearing but ramshackle feature-length video by Graver (1993) is like a conducted tour through the cameraman’s closet. The most precious documents on view are the original trailers for Citizen Kane and F for Fake, both in effect self-contained short works by Welles. (The first was made during the production of Kane; the second, an extravagant nine minutes long, was made more than three years after the European release of F for Fake, and because the feature’s U.S. distributor refused to process it, it survives only as a black-and-white work print.) But Graver is too generous and indiscriminate to stop there; he also offers the trailers for David and Goliath (a cheesy epic in which Welles plays King Saul) and Kodar’s first feature, Jaded (a singular exploitation item, still unreleased in the U.S., in which one can catch glimpses of Welles’s unreleased The Merchant of Venice). There are also a few fugitive clips from better-known Welles features, but the main topic broached is Welles’s unreleased The Other Side of the Wind, which still awaits completion funding; there’s no plot description or final footage, but its production is recalled by Cameron Mitchell, Susan Strasberg, Frank Marshall, Peter Jason, Curtis Harrington, and Peter Bogdanovich. Other tidbits: Stacy Keach talks about his encounter with Welles during the shooting of the Pia Zadora vehicle Butterfly, and Graver throws in bits of two of his own early shorts, one of them narrated by Welles, the other included on the pretext that Graver was 23 when he made it, the same age he incorrectly says Welles was when he made Kane (he was actually 25). We also get two whiskey ads featuring Welles made for Japanese TV, a magic act featuring Welles and Graver on the Tonight Show, a personal statement by Graver’s producer, and a few tests shot by Graver for Welles. Much of the organization seems arbitrary, but if you’re a Welles aficionado you’re bound to find most of the material intriguing. Facets Multimedia Center, 1517 W. Fullerton, Friday and Saturday, November 4 and 5, 7:00 and 9:00, and Sunday, November 6, 5:30 and 7:30, 281-4114.

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