In his latest film essay The Eyes Of Orson Welles, director and cinephile Mark Cousins (Stockholm, My Love and The First Movie) presents a hugely compelling and deeply personal look at one of his cinematic heroes in a film in which he was afforded unequalled access to Welles’ huge body of work and some of his most cherished drawings and sketches by the late director’s daughter Beatrice.
Constructed in the style of a love letter, The Eyes Of Orson Welles offers an in-depth look at what made the legendary director tick by chartering his sociopolitical worldview, love life and work ethic throughout his career. Using the second person device throughout and at times deliberately filmed in the unmistakable Wellesian style, Cousins presents an unabashedly indulgent and hugely gratifying insight into a life dedicated to the love of filmmaking in its purest form by the man who wrote the rule book on modern cinema by taking risks and thinking outside the box, while everyone else remained confined to the rigidity of early classical Hollywood cinema.
Whilst deliberately avoiding some of Welles’s most popular output in favour of his lesser known body of work, Cousins is careful not to ignore his idol’s revolutionary techniques all the while concentrating mostly on the man himself. In a chapter dedicated to Welles’ many love affairs and marriages, the film offers a tender and commendably non judgemental look at the many women in his life, from Rita Hayworth to Paola Mori and Oja Kodar who he would finish his last days with. Cousins also touches briefly on Welles’ male friendships which were almost as intense as his marriages and love affairs.
Using a photo of Welles as a recurrent motif throughout the film, Cousins addresses the director directly and with unbridled reverence and adoration. Time and time again, we are encouraged to look deep into the late director’s eyes, perhaps in the hope of being swept away by the same feelings of respect for a man who saw beyond simple storytelling, and who used his art to spread a message of hope when many preferred to embarrass the status quo in fear of rocking the boat.
On the Whole, The Eyes Of Orson Welles presents a truly inspiring insight into, not only into Welles, but Cousins himself. While never appearing in person, the director is more than happy to admit that his film is a deeply personal one. Drawing parallels between Welles’ own denouncement of fascism and the current political climate of the Trumpian era, the film presents a real opportunity to rally filmmakers and artists around the world to stay true to their own beliefs by using their art in order to counterbalance the deeply disturbing times we live in. A beautifully well constructed and genuinely touching account of love and respect which is likely to enchant any self-respecting Welles aficionado.
The Eyes Of Orson Welles in part of EIFF programme.