Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Mr. Arkadin a.k.a Confedential Report (1955)

Mr. Arkadin Poster  Mr. Arkadin is said to be partially based off the radio series "The Lives of Harry Lime" (which was based off The Third Man a film-noir masterpiece that stars Orson Welles. There is also a novel called "Mr. Arkadin" written by Orson Welles - or at least it's what is says on the cover. For the first time in my life I have a first-hand experience that you should never judge a book by it's cover. Not a single word of the novel "Mr. Arkadin was indeed written by Orson Welles. There was a ghost writer involved who did all of the writing. In fact, Orson Welles was un-aware that this novel even existed until one day he walked into a bookshop and saw the book there - or so he claims. Who truly wrote the novel? The sentences are short and written like someone who read too much Chandler and Hammett. The novel was originally written in French and later translated to English. . Perhaps someone involved in producing Mr. Arkadin, as it would make a fabulous publicity stunt.  Those were all thoughts running through peoples minds until very recently when the author's name was discovered in Louis Dolivet's old files. The author was the French actor, Maurice Bessy.

  The cast was was carefully selected. Interestingly, Mariene Dietrich turned down the lead female role, however she did later work with Orson Welles in Touch of Evil. After shooting, Orson Welles began the editing process. This was done with great difficulty. The editing process went out of hand while making Mr. Arkadin, Orson Welles surpassed the deadline Mr. Arkadin was supposed to be complete by. This left the producer, Louis Dolivet with the necessary decision to release Mr. Arkadin in several different versions. 

1. The Spanish version of Mr. Arkadin. Premiered in 1955. Contains some different actors from the English speaking versions.

2. A slightly different cut of the Spanish version.

3. Confidential Report the version that premiered in London in 1955. The editing was based off the original drafts of the script. One of the most simple cuts of the movies. 

4. The "Cornith" version. This was discovered by Peter Bogdanovich. This was a major release in 1962. Believed to be the closest to what Orson Welles wanted the film to be for the next 44 years.

5. A version that is now in public domain. Do yourself a favour... DO NOT WATCH THIS VERSION. Lots of the film is cut out. The dialogue and even the film itself does not make sense.
6. The greatest version of Mr. Arkadin is considered to be the 2006 Criterion Collection release. It uses all of the English speaking footage that could be found. It uses all of Orson Welles' scribbles that he wrote while making the movie. As well, when Orson Welles looked back he gave his thoughts on how this could have been better. The Criterion Collection followed those thoughts to make the greatest version of the film. That is the version I suggest you watch, as it is the version I watched.

I wish I knew more about the production of Mr. Arkadin, I've done lots of research but I can find very little. Mr. Arkadin was very hard for me to find. I bought it on Criterion for $50. I highly recommend it as it came with three disks and the novel "Mr. Arkadin".

A plane flies through the sky. A voice comes over. He explains that recently in the news a plane crashed. The following movie is a fictional accounting of that plane's crash. An old homeless man lies on the ground. He is tired and looks sick. A man runs over to the homeless man on the ground. The man who just ran in, his name is Guy Van Stratten. He worns the homeless man that he is in danger and that he most leave immediately. The old man refuses to move. Guy begins to tell his story in order to explain matters to the homeless man.

One day, Guy is working on the docks when suddenly a man runs through. He is firing his gun and being chased by another man. After a short firefight the first man lies on the ground, slowly dying. Guy hurries over to check if he is okay. The man looks up at him and explains that he will give him an a million dollar secret. He then whispers the word "Gregory Arkadin" before he passes away. After a jail sentence for smuggling cigarettes Guy returns to investigate this strange "Mr. Arkadin". After some quick research he comes up with a plan. He figures Arkadin's daughter will lead him to Mr. Arkadin himself.
One day Guy meets up with Arkadin's daughter and they start a relationship. A short amount of time passes and she invites him to a costume party being hosted by her father. It's here Guy and Arkadin first meet. Mr. Arkadin reveals to having a confidential report on Guy. It contains all of Guy's secrets. Needless to say, Guy is shocked. Mr. Arkadin then shares a secret of his own. According to Mr. Arkadin, he has amnesia from the beginning of his life. He does not know how he became a billionaire. He wants Guy to do a confidential report on Mr. Arakdin. Guy agrees, as he is getting paid. Guy investigates several people who would have been in contact with Arkadin in his younger years. 

All is well, until Guy discovers to many secrets. He learns more than Mr. Arkadin intended. This leaves Mr. Arkadin with one single choice. Can you guess what it is?

Where do I start? I'll say my thoughts in the order they came to me while I was watching the movie.

First, I thought the fact that Orson Welles tied this around an event that actually happened recently in the news was very beneficial to the film. First off, it keeps you guessing how the two stories are going to intertwine. Finally, this is a fair bit of a social commentary. Nobody gave much thought to the pilot of the plane. Most people thought he was a drunken idiot. Perhaps, as cheesy as it sounds Mr. Arkadin taught us to look at both sides of the story before making any hasty desicions.

  The cinematography was very dark, shadowy and frightening at points. The film was beautiful during the night scenes. Sadly, the day scenes didn't shimmer quite the same.  I have a theory. As there was lots of contrast between blacks and whites (as the film was in black and white) I began to notice things. Perhaps this could be said for dozens of other films, but I noticed it while watching Mr. Arkadin, but in each frame whatever was shown in white was to be emphasized. The images in black represented the evil or darkness in this film. Of course, there are several exceptions.

I noticed, in lots of the shots, the camera was angled up towards the characters. What does this mean? Did Orson Welles just want some interesting angles? One thought that came to mind is that Orson Welles makes us look up at these characters, as if they're superior to us, when every character seems to be a criminal. 

Snappy dialogue is what makes film-noirs so very loved. Mr. Arkadin isn't considered to be a film-noir by most, but I would beg to differ. This has all the characteristics of a film-noir. The main characters who is up to no good, the femme-fatale, the villain and some of the best dialogue you'll ever hear. There's a scene when Guy intends to "get friendly" with Arkadin's daughter. Keep in mind, this is at a point where they haven't met before. The daughter is sitting with a man. He is told he there is a phone call for him. In wanders Guy over to Arkadin's daughter. He asks her to dance since it would take a while for her boyfriend to return. She refuses. Guy persists and says that the phonecall will take a long time since it's a long distance call. Arkadin's daughter refuses again. She then stops and asks Guy how he knew it was a long distance call. He smiles and explains because he placed the call himself. That's one quick example. A direct line I enjoyed was said in the film I believe by Michael Redgrave's character, here it is: "After 20,000 years murder is still a business in the hands of amateurs." No line summarizes Mr. Arkadin up than that one.

Even though I watched the best version of the movie, it was still very confusing. There are flashbacks, big names of characters to remember, the dialouge comes fast. If you can keep up you're doing great. Perhaps a re-watch would do myself better.

  Guy was played excellently by Robert Arden, an American actor who only had a large role in a movie once. That one movie was Mr. Arkadin. He did a great job playing a Fred MacMurray type character. It's tragic this was his only big role. The same can be said for Paola Mori. She was in about three movies. Mr. Arkadin, The Trial - in a role she wasn't even credited for and she also starred in Orson Welles' failure of a TV movie, Don Quixote. I have seen two of those, and I don't remember her in The Trial. She has been manipulated by two different men who love her in different ways. She is the one innocent character who deserves are sympathy.

Mr. Arkadin,
Directed by Orson Welles,
Starring: Robert Arden, Orson Welles, Paola Mori and Michael Redgrave
9/10 (A)

1. F for Fake
2. The Magnificent Ambersons
3. Touch of Evil
4. Mr. Arkadin
5. The Lady From Shanghai
6. Citizen Kane
7. Chimes at Midnight
8. The Trial 
9. The Stranger
10. Macbeth
11. Othello 


1 comment: