Preview: Orson Welles Season @ The ICA

Dean Nicholas
By Dean Nicholas Last edited 82 months ago
Preview: Orson Welles Season @ The ICA


The Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in the Mall is running a short but sweet season of Orson Welles films over the next week.

As a filmmaker Welles is most famous for Citizen Kane, his ambitious 1941 debut which he produced, directed, co-wrote and starred in, and which now, seven decades later, regularly tops the lists pumped out by the likes of Sight & Sound and the American Film Institute as the greatest movie ever made. There's a reason for this: it's just that damned good. If you've never seen it, then this is an ideal opportunity.

Two other films are playing in the season. Firstly, The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) which was famously wrecked by the studio behind it, RKO, who lopped an hour off Welles' original cut and tacked on a happy ending. Maliciously, RKO then destroyed the negatives, leaving the film as one of the great 'what if's?' of cinema (a legend persists that a print of the original remains somewhere in Brazil). Despite its truncated form, The Magnificent Ambersons, which chronicles the decline of an aristocratic family at the beginning of the 20th century, is a beautifully made piece of cinema.

The season's final movie is Touch of Evil, a 1958 film noir which marked Welles' short-lived return to Hollywood. Much like his debut, Welles wrote, directed and starred in the pulpy tale of crime and police corruption in a grubby border town; much like Ambersons, the finished product was wrecked by the studio, although fortunately the original negatives, and the director's copious editing notes, survived, and the film was re-released in 1998 in the form that the late director intended. Showing at the ICA in a new print, the film is perhaps most famous for the wildly ambitious single-take tracking shot with which the film opens; it also co-stars Charlton Heston as a Mexican cop, which is worth the price of admission alone.

Orson Welles: Postcards from Xanadu is at the ICA from October 28th to November 3rd

Last Updated 27 October 2011