Falstaff - Verdi vs. Welles

  • Mar. 11th, 2010 at 9:01 AM
my_daroga: Orson Welles (orson)
Last night, [profile] tkp and I attended the Seattle Opera's production of Falstaff. It was a far different experience from the only other I've seen there, Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle paired with Schoenberg's Erwartung. That was an incredibly intense visual and musical experience, unlike anything I'm likely to see again, while Falstaff was much more traditional comic opera.

The production itself was charming: as we wandered in, there were singers on the stage, milling around, stretching, talking--one with a dog, that arrived from somewhere and was not part of the show--and dressing. The back curtain was absent so you could see right through to the wall of the theater. The set was composed of a sort of boardwalk around three side, with stairs and tables and things which were moved around during the course of the show. I think the "behind the scenes" aspect was probably justified by the several references in the libretto to singing. Regardless, it was lighthearted and fun, and set the tone that this was not serious business, though when the opera started everyone was in full costume and the backdrop descended.
more thoughts )


  • Aug. 3rd, 2009 at 10:27 AM
my_daroga: James T. Kirk (shatner)
I know you know I find them both unbearably pretty, but I hadn't really thought about this.

is this too much of a stretch? )

Not that it matters, but just a little bit?
my_daroga: Orson Welles (orson)

As most of you know, I've been obsessed with Orson Welles for some months, now. Today, he would have been 94 years old. And while I doubt he'd have lived this long under most circumstances, it's unfortunate that he died at 70, still working fruitlessly in post-golden boy "decline," ignored by the industry who came out in droves to shower his memory as soon as they could not longer materially help. At least he died at his typewriter. But he also died before the critical tide turned fully in his favor--though maybe that's how these things work.

Even now, Welles maintains a strange position in film studies and biography. The sensationalists in us like to hold him up as a self-destructive contradiction, a selfish genius who never fulfilled his promise and "ate himself to death," a man who caused all his own difficulties--or, on the other side, was eternally the victim. Of course neither, I think, is true: Welles had his share of faults, but he wasn't treated very well by those he relied upon when he chose a field so dependent on money and cooperation as filmmaking. He made compromises, and they weren't Hollywood's, and maybe that was a mistake. We'll never know. What I do know is that I can't read most of the biographies about him when so many of them seem to have nothing nice to say--Simon Callow has a very thorough several-volume set, but I've never heard him be anything but coyly dismissive of Welles in interviews. I also know, through my google alert (set so as not to miss any new films uncovered, etc), that fully 1/3 of references to Welles on a daily basis are reposts of that Paul Masson commercial outtake where he's blotto and ridiculous. Which, yes, is funny. But it pains me to see it as his "legacy" for the internet crowd.

Welles is one of those artists whose work I enjoy more for knowing more about him. As an ouvre. Which is not to say that I sit around making explicit connections between them, because I don't think he worked that way. But I enjoy enjoying him as a person, as an actor/writer/director in total, and it makes even the minor stuff entertaining because I'm bringing his body of work to it. As one does with any figure in whom one's interest transcends the single work. Their imperfections become interesting, or meaningful, or perhaps just proof of their humanity.

This is one reason it's hard for me to post, in tribute, a clip, or mention my favorite Welles film. I don't know that I have one. I think I'm more interested in the canon, the combination, and the artistic flexibility/tenacity of the man than any one film.

I started out hoping I'd end up saying something, when really, I don't know that I have anything to say that's not been said better, elsewhere. Perhaps by me. But Happy Birthday, Mr. Welles. I'd have liked to have known you. But not dated you.

some quotes )

Five associated things, list one

  • Feb. 25th, 2009 at 12:41 PM
my_daroga: Orson Welles (orson)
Five things [livejournal.com profile] inlaterdays associates with me:

I started "seriously" taking photos in March of 2005, when I visited Seattle for the first time and brought Mr. Daroga's 80's Minolta with me. The photos in the daffodil fields in Skagit county were sort of a revelation; I realized I loved how they looked, and that I had taken them. (That particular lens, too, has a quality I fear I cannot match with my digital.) I joined DeviantArt, and started taking more photos, and spent a lot of money on film and developing.

Sometimes I think of "doing something" with photography, only I don't know what. I haven't made a disciplined study of it, and I'm not sure what direction I'd want to go. I love candid shots, street scenes, taking photos of little things no one notices. I haven't delved much into studio or portrait work, because I guess my documentary impulse is stronger. I'd love to find some direction here, and really learn what works and what doesn't.

Phantom of the Opera
Ah,imagine my not-surprise that this came up. But what to elaborate upon?

I guess what comes to mind most strongly is how I've attempted to "reclaim" POTO fandom--I don't mean externally, from someone else, but for myself. To have a fandom I can operate in. The source itself seems to matter less, aside from the fact that I feel comfortable within it because I know it very well (I love Buffy, too, for example, but feel ill-equipped memory-wise to write or participate). Also, Phantom fandom is small enough to make a little splash in, which (as you know) I have tried to do. It's less, maybe, that I'm still obsessed with the story/characters and more that I still find them useful/interesting enough to build that interaction around. It's something consistent I can go back to and mine. That said, I don't actually feel that any given version of it (even Leroux) is a masterpiece. Which is probably why it's allowed for so much expression over the years. You can't do much with perfection; it's the flawed that can stand to be tinkered with.

I have always loved dogs, for as long as I can remember. When I was a baby, we had an Old English named Tuppence who (I am told) guarded me while I slept and cleaned my face off after I ate. We had to give her away when I was 6 months old and we moved to Saudi Arabia, but I romantically half-believe that experience set me up for life. (As a side note, I also romantically think my un-remembered year in Arabia set me up for Lawrence.) I am far more likely to notice dogs than people on the street. I remember specific dogs at the dog park, but never their owners. I suppose love of dogs is fairly common because they have been engineered to be perfect companions: at their best, they are obedient, respectful, true, multi-purpose, and aesthetically pleasing. I like cats, too--in fact, I like all animals--and I love having both for different reasons. But I will always put dogs first, if given the choice.

As to what I like in dogs, specifically, I especially appreciate functionality. I don't mean I need a dog to pull a sled or flush game or keep my sheep, but that it bothers me very much that we've bred dogs who cannot survive on their own. All the bulldogs, pugs, dachshunds, etc into whom we've intentionally bred health problems seems, to me, to be abuse, plain and simple. Maybe you think they're cute, and maybe the fact that they're pets means survival isn't an issue, but it bothers me that we've twisted these creatures for no other end than we think it's adorable that their faces are squished so they can't breath and their bodies are deformed so they can't run properly or give birth naturally.

As to my more personal preferences, they tend towards the working/herding group, the sheepdogs and such. I find those qualities to be more advantageous for home life (sticking around, guarding, etc) than the prey-driven and running-off breeds. Overall, though, I love the mutt, and I think that given the fact I've been successful in rehabilitating a problem dog, it's my duty to do so whenever I can.

As you may have noticed, writing and I have a bit of a troubled relationship. I love it when it goes well, because it's easy. I hardly ever edit anything, and I've been rewarded fine (both academically and fandom-wise) for not being terribly careful. I don't mean I'm sloppy, or that I'm not working at it, but most of what I put out there has been tweaked very little between my brain and your eyes. So I've learned some fairly bad habits, and haven't learned the value of careful editing and plotting and all that.

That's probably why most of my stuff is short. I don't let you see the longer stuff, because it would take more work, and I haven't gotten my head wrapped around, say, rewriting my Phantom novella.

I'm always of two minds about what I want to write, as well. I know full well I've no aspirations to greatness, to literary merit. Most of my favorite books aren't "literary classics," they're whatever moves me. If I could affect someone the same way, I'd be happy. But at the same time, part of me doesn't seem to want to accept this. It's not exactly conscious, but I'm blocked a lot of the time from just going wild and writing what I'd probably want to, if I thought about it.

Orson Welles
I think the thing that draws me to Orson Welles is the complexity and contradiction of him. He was multi-talented, an actor, writer, director, artist, everything. He was an attractive man who is "not my type." And he's at the center of controversy, even today, about what he means to his field(s) and no two books you read about him will paint the same picture. In fact, there are opposing camps of Welles scholars, some of whom seem to want to deny him any agency in his work at all, and some of whom want to excuse his every indulgence. His "failure" is either entirely his fault, or entirely the world's. Of course, most are somewhere in the middle.

In this, he reminds me of the last historical individual I was obsessed with, T.E. Lawrence. Multi-talented, a little (or very) odd, and ultimately disappointed by life, leaving an uncertain legacy that will be argued over for generations. I wonder if that quality is what attracts me, and what it is about that that does. It's true that on my bookshelf, these two men are the only people who take up a comparable amount of space, though in personality/interest/scope they're nothing alike.

What I've read about Welles really makes me like him. I don't think he was perfect, or blameless, or any of that. But he's delightful, even sometimes in his arrogance (and who's to say some of it wasn't earned). And while some consider his acting "hammy," I think he's one of the most charming people I've ever seen on screen, even when the movies are bad. Dirty little secret: my current affair with him actually began as a result of my using his image (this icon, in fact) as the avatar for a male Carlotta-figure for an rp. That character has taken on a life of his own, but he sparked a re-examination of Welles' work for me which prompted... well, what you see.

I could go on for days on any of these! So feel free to discuss, if I said anything interesting.

I gave in

  • Dec. 31st, 2008 at 7:00 AM
my_daroga: Mucha's "Dance" (rochester)

Not much there yet, but if you're interested, feel free to join. Oh, and if you're a member of other communities of people who might be interested, please let them know for me. Thanks!

Film Review: Compulsion (1959)

  • Dec. 21st, 2008 at 8:18 AM
my_daroga: Orson Welles (orson)
Compulsion, based on the Leopold/Loeb murder case and directed by Richard Fleischer, is a tight little movie whose performances by Dean Stockwell, Bradford Dillman and Orson Welles elevate it above some less-talented bit players and conventional surroundings. It was the last film Welles made in Hollywood for some years, and though he enters an hour into it, his performance as a Clarence Darrow-inspired lawyer is unforgettable.
Slight spoilers, but only because the film has to assume you know who Leopold and Loeb are )

Shakespeare on Film

  • Oct. 20th, 2008 at 12:43 PM
my_daroga: Mucha's "Dance" (rochester)
Due to the enabling power of the Seattle Film Festival Shakespeare series, I was recently afforded the opportunity to see Orson Welles' Macbeth and Othello on screen and restored. As a show of my lack of bias, I also saw Olivier's Hamlet again, and thoroughly enjoyed all three despite what I see as massive problems in each. Perhaps I'll delve into those further at a future time (though I know my Orson posts are not very exciting for all of you!) but I will say that they all offer exciting things to watch and think about even as they also raise questions about filmmaking, Shakespearean adaptation, and character interpretation. (I will say that despite some opinions I've seen to the contrary, and black face politics aside, I think Orson's one of the least ridiculous looking white guys I've ever seen play Othello. Even if his makeup seems to be all over the place over the course of the 3 year filming period, and he looked darker in parts of Jane Eyre and Macbeth.)

I'm struck, every time I see Hamlet in whatever form, at how brilliant it is. I don't know why it would be, considering how many times I've seen it and how much I've apparently memorized, that I should be surprised by it every time. I am not so much a fan of Macbeth, and I honestly don't know Othello well enough to have a firm opinion of it, but Hamlet kills me every time. And I do like Olivier, sometimes; his Hamlet is bizarre and theatrical even when no one's watching, which I suppose is valid enough, though Ophelia is rather awful and I wish he'd sucked it up and let Vivien play her. Certainly, 33 is far too old for an Ophelia playing opposite his 41-year-old Hamlet. Considering Gertrude's 28, this argument seems rather flimsy. Anyway, I suppose it is merely a matter of Hamlet's themes and writing striking a chord with me, though I feel rather unoriginal and redundant, expressing my love thus.

Welles' Macbeth and Othello are quite different from Olivier and from each other, though both are plagued by technical issues arising from lack of funds. One gets the impression that at this point Welles felt trod on and denied enough that he merely wished to get something done, and certain things fell by the wayside. Still, both movies are strong in certain areas, especially if one can get past the first few minutes of Othello which are appallingly edited and difficult to follow. This film, especially, has moments of sublime beauty and exhibits flashes of brilliance through the technical limitations Welles was forced to by paying for most of it himself.

But adapting Shakespeare is always an issue--both men were flogged by critics for taking liberties with the text, though as Branagh's Hamlet proved, presenting unexpurgated Shakespeare is not a foolproof method of translating it to the screen. But by necessity, it's going to be a different experience than watching it on the stage. So my question to you is: Do you think it's been done well? By whom? What's your favorite Shakespeare movie? (Any discussion of the three movies named above is also welcome!)

Minor Wellesiana I

  • Oct. 12th, 2008 at 10:02 AM
my_daroga: Mucha's "Dance" (rochester)
Less-than-full reviews so I can get this out of my system, and you won't have to suffer as long.

Tomorrow is Forever (1946)
Tomorrow is Forever is a postwar melodrama Martin Guerre-with-a-twist that was apparently designed to make mothers feel better about having let their sons/husbands go off to war. The story concerns Claudette Colbert and Orson Welles, happily married for about two minutes before Welles ships off in a too-tight uniform to fight in WWI. Welles is blown up, and Colbert gets the fateful telegram informing her of his death.

But Welles is not dead--he's laid up in a hospital, his hands non-functional and his face swathed in bandages denoting terrible disfigurement. He won't tell the doctors his name, for the sentimental reason that he does not want to saddle his wife with this wreck of a man.

Twenty years later, on the eve of another war, Colbert is happily married with two sons. Her husband one day brings home an Austrian chemist, who recognizes Colbert right away because she has not aged at all but is apparently unrecognizable as Welles, disfigured as he is by horn-rimmed glasses and a beard. (Incidentally, the age makeup here is probably one of the better technical accomplishments of the film, for he looks a lot like the older Welles but smaller.) He's also sporting a new name and Austrian accent, as well as a tiny blond Natalie Wood--a girl he's adopted after she saw her family killed in front of her. Conflict erupts first as Colbert's son--a young man Welles is mathematically certain is his own, born after his supposed death--demands to be allowed to join the RAF so he can fight the Nazis, and later as Colbert begins to suspect that Welles is Welles.

There's some interesting tension provided almost entirely by Welles' acting as he attempts to connect with his son, who has no idea his father isn't his father. The unequal conversation is somewhat moving, as is Welles' general situation. However, the film also calls for a lot of ridiculous speechifying about the need to let young men make decisions and the duty of and to mothers and Welles' character's absolute refusal to admit he's her husband--aside from stating that if he were such a man, he would not tell her so, because she's happy and has a family and it's all for the best this way. The plot is artificial and melodramatically patriotic, and Colbert gets rather hysterical except for the parts where I found myself wondering why she wasn't reacting more. However, Welles stands out as the only thing worthy or interesting in the picture, and oddly enough the least heavy-handed.

Prince of Foxes (1949)
This is one of several movies Welles acted in (without directing) in Europe in the late 40s, while intermittently filming Othello whenever and wherever he could. As a film, it's rather dull and uninspired and written apparently by random, and to my eyes Tyrone Power is a wooden and altogether inexplicable leading man.

Welles, however, turns in what might be an overly energetic performance except for the fact that 1) he's playing Cesare Borgia and 2) the rest of the film is so boring you're fairly aching for some scenery chewing and lament the bulk of the time he's not on screen. Welles' slightly campy, overtly smarmy, and ultimately totally charming Borgia is exactly why he gets criticized for "hammy" acting, but I see no more appropriate place for it than here. Then again, what a lot of people call "ham" I think should be more rightly considered "charm" in the right hands--early William Shatner, for instance, is not the man of endless parodic ellipses but does twinkle almost manically with delight a good portion of the time. Don't we all know charismatic people like that? Ah well, it's probably the case that what one finds charming, another will find grating, and vice versa.

Borgia is so smoothly, uncomplicatedly, and happily evil that he might be ridiculous, and perhaps he is. But he's also tremendous fun. Welles' performances reads like a man who's doing everything he can to amuse himself--in a better movie, it might detract, but in this one, it at least means there's something amusing us. (This scene is the centerpiece, really--keep watching to the end, it's worth it.) He also looks surprisingly fit in tights.

Radio Plays: Les Miserables, Dracula, A Tale of Two cities, Treasure Island, Rebecca
Welles' radio dramas--directed, acted, and frequently adapted by him--were a staple of late 30's radio. Welles' innovation was to adapt the material as faithfully as possible using a viewpoint character to tell the story--often voiced by himself. The result was an intimate hour of radio theater that did not always get to the heart of the material but always evoked some of its quality. With his Mercury Players around him, Welles' created seamless dramas with innovative use of sound and narrative that he later translated to film technique.

Briefly, I will say that listening to hour-long truncations of the works I am familiar with work better than those I am not, aside from the annoyances created by the leaving out of key plot points (there's a lot of fat to trim in Dracula, for instance, but leaving out the fact that Rebecca was dying in the eponymous work renders the ending nonsensical), but the attempts are admirable. It cannot be easy to reduce A Tale of Two Cities to such a time frame. Welles plays, respectively, narrator/Valjean, Dr. Seward/Dracula, Sydney Carton/Alexandre Manette, older narrator!Jim Hawkins/John Silver, and Maxim de Winter. He does each admirably, and the works in which he appears as multiple people do not suffer from it, for he disguises his voice well enough to get away with it. His Valjean is particularly memorable (the very well done series focuses on the Valjean/Javert angle, cutting most everything else, and featuring a regrettable performance by Welles' then-wife, Virginia Nicholson, as the older Cosette) as is his de Winter, who ought to have been immortalized on film due to his perfect capturing of both the vulnerable and commanding sides of his nature in a way the other three men I've seen (Olivier, Brett and Dance) have not.


  • Sep. 30th, 2008 at 7:34 AM
my_daroga: Mucha's "Dance" (rochester)
I am obsessed with Orson Welles.

This is not news to any of you, I suspect, since I talk of little else lately except for the odd foray into Peter Pan outfits. Nor do I think it will soon pass, and you will be inundated with more reviews as I attempt to watch his entire body of work. But I don't bring him up to talk about him in particular, today, but about obsession.

See, it's been ages--it feels like years--since anything's hit me this hard. When I was a teenager, and through college, certain things would grab hold of me and not let go. Sherlock Holmes, The Phantom of the Opera, T.E. Lawrence, The X-Files, all of them had their day(s) and all of them were certain to elevate my heart rate on a regular basis. Under these conditions I was most likely insufferable, but I also wrote a lot. Obsession, for me, is akin to that gut-level yearning that also spurred my writing in previous years, the stories I just had to get out and would work on incessantly until they were done, thinking of little else. They were never that long, and compared to some of you my output, even at its highest, was much less. These stories were not necessarily related to my current obsession (unless it was Phantom), but the feeling was similar.

That's part of the reason that my constant rumination on Orson makes me happy--I'd missed that feeling. I've missed being absorbed by something, probably because it's one of the few situations in which I feel at all passionate. I think I'm fairly dynamic in real life. I'm not a stoic. But that's just personality, and here I'm talking about the sort of thing that dominates my thoughts and proves to me that I'm still reachable.

This is most likely a little bit unhealthy. After all, there are "better" things to be passionate about--real world situations, real people, relationships. And this sort of passion is inward-directed, reachable only by me and then constantly spilling forth whether my companion wants to hear it or not. In this instance, I am lucky in that Mr. Daroga seems to feel the same and [livejournal.com profile] tkp at least finds him adorable and seems to be amused by the fact of my obsession in itself. (No, he's not my type at all, physically; but as I told her last night only half-joking, I feel this is good for me and represents, er, an expansion of my taste.) But in general, unless you are part of a cult or spend a tremendous amount of time online to the exclusion of your everyday activities, fanatical obsession is a solitary thing. Even when it's shared, the peculiar overflow of excitement is difficult to confer on another, and more often than not serves more as a feedback loop for one's own obsession.

But for whatever reason, and I believe I've mentioned this before, I was nostalgic for those days of all-consuming interest. I'd thought it lost in the face of "real life": marriage, pet parenting, full-time employment and the like. I just didn't have the time or energy to obsess. I was doing more important things. Now I feel that way again, and I want to prolong it and draw it out and revel in it. Why? Is it like the person who keeps starting and leaving relationships, so they can get that new love high over and over? The objects of my obsession always stay close, even when the fire dies down. I tried to jump-start my Phantom thing again, by coming back online and getting involved. I have succeeded primarily in addiction to a cracktastic role-play forum--perhaps that's another obsession, or perhaps it just sparked this one. Perhaps it was quitting anti-depressants that did it.

Whatever the reason, what I hope is that this marks a return to some of my other pursuits--namely, obsessive writing. Back then, my stories were not brilliant, but at least I was telling them. And the compulsion to tell them overcame any laziness or fear of failure or whatever else is stopping me now. I'm not sure I should be so delighted by my own insular fannishness, but I am.

What about you? Do you have an obsessive personality? Did you once and, like me, leave it with some part of your life as you moved on? Or are you astonished that I'm even remarking upon it because it's just part of life? What have you been obsessed with? And that strange feeling--do you like it? Or is it a barrier between you and "real" life?

And isn't Orson amazing?

Film review: Jane Eyre (1944)

  • Sep. 21st, 2008 at 3:24 PM
my_daroga: Orson Welles (orson)
Jane Eyre is not my favorite adaptation of Jane Eyre, nor is it a strictly faithful one. It relies heavily on its “literary” merits, demonstrated by passages of typed exposition that do not actually appear in the novel (though large parts of the dialogue do). Its 96 minutes necessitate gross cutting of major subplots. And at no time does anyone look remotely like they're outside, in England or anywhere else. But there is much to love about this version, and in many respects is beautifully done.
Don't you agree it gives me the right to be masterful and abrupt? )

obediently yours... orson welles picspam!

  • Sep. 10th, 2008 at 7:12 PM
my_daroga: Orson Welles (orson)
His clean-cut ugliness has created a new standard of masculine attractiveness.
--1938 newspaper article

I've been threatening to do this for awhile, and as my current obsession shows no signs of abating, I feel the time has come to inflict it upon you. It's not that Welles' appearance is, by itself, the focus of my interest; but the fact he was a hottie doesn't hurt. But what makes it even more alluring is the genius there, too, and the incredibly sad story of a man who had boundless potential who was thwarted his entire life--though of course, he produced works for theater, radio and film that have stood the test of time. Far from a has-been who reached his peak at too young an age and could never recover his boyish genius (that was the story I always heard), he rather fell prey to the vagaries of Hollywood finance. In fact, he kept fighting and producing, in any way he could, and as anyone who takes a look at 1974's F for Fake must admit, he had his touch well into his final years. I think one of his biggest problems was choosing mediums that required the participation and finance of too many people. The cost of failure was too high--anyone who didn't tow the line didn't get the money.

Anyway, I'm about to start babbling, so on to the photos. I'm afraid they lean heavily towards the younger Welles, but that doesn't mean he wasn't still attractive later. But for me, that lay mainly in the twinkle of his eye, hard to capture in still frames.

Photobucket Image Hosting
During "War of the Worlds"

george orson welles )
I hope you enjoyed that. I may have gotten a little carried away.
my_daroga: Orson Welles (orson)
After Citizen Kane failed to reach audiences (for various reasons) in 1941, Orson Welles set out to make an even better film. Thus began the tortured pattern of Welles’ relationship with Hollywood, as he negotiated away final cut, had forty minutes removed without his consent, and was in South America on another project as an upbeat ending was tacked on. The film was The Magificent Ambersons, and as charming and tight a family drama as it remains, one cannot help but wonder what it would have been if it had remained in his hands.
The magnificence of the Ambersons began in 1873 )


my_daroga: Mucha's "Dance" (Default)
[personal profile] my_daroga

Latest Month

October 2013



RSS Atom
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios
Designed by [personal profile] chasethestars