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Giving a talk at the Brattle Theatre on Orson Welles's The Magnificent Ambersons


It has been an exceedingly eventful day. More on that anon--need to decompress for a bit so as to start going at it hard again in the morrow. But I thought I'd try something here. We will see if it works. I'm still feeling out how to work this blog, in terms of what can be uploaded. It's been pretty easy so far. I'm not exactly Lord Technology, and of course I didn't build this site. Just had some of the design ideas. Not all. This could be a good place for this video, though. A while back I gave a talk at the Brattle Theatre out at Harvard, before a screening of Orson Welles's The Magnificent Ambersons. I guess this was about a year ago? Sounds right. The Brattle is my favorite movie house. It's existed since 1953, and bills itself as Boston's unofficial film school. I spend a lot of hours there. A movie-going career highlight for me was seeing 1947's Out of the Past at the Brattle several times. (And seeing The Friends of Eddie Coyle several times was another.) I kept going back. One time I "watched" the entire film with my eyes closed. It's a great film for that. So is basically any Welles picture. And Hawks' Rio Bravo. Out of the Past is one of my ten favorite films, along with Scrooge, A Hard Day's Night, Chimes at Midnight, Rio Bravo, The Searchers, Withnail and I, Star Wars, Dracula, The Rules of the Game, Sons of the Desert. Is that ten? (Honorable mention for Rear Window.) I've written on Out of the Past a lot--the film, the novel on which it is based--and I even wrote a sequence into a short story called "Sequentials" that Conjunctions is publishing that occurs between some people at a screening of Out of the Past. But this is about Orson Welles. In the future, I'd like to do a short, definitive volume on Chimes at Midnight, or The Trial, or Mr. Arkadin.


Chimes is, in my view, perhaps the best film of the 1960s. The Trial is never discussed enough (to understand how adroitly Welles could rework a canonical text--which was a form of writing he was a genius at--you need to study The Trial), and Arkadin is perhaps the most fascinating failure--though it may not be a failure at all--in all of cinema. What a strange work. In all of its different versions. It's akin to Welles' White Album. Ambersons is akin to his Yesterday and Today. A chopping up of something that was much better, but which is still pretty good.