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Youssef Ishaghpour's Rosebud


By Darius KADIVAR from Paris, FRANCE

Acclaimed Iranian film critic publishes anthology in French on Orson Welles' prolific film legacy



"A film is never really good unless the camera is an eye in the head of a poet."

-Orson Welles


"Even if the good old days never existed, the fact that we can conceive such a world is, in fact, an affirmation of the human spirit."

- Orson Welles


"I started at the top and worked down."

-Orson Welles



Had Orson Welles been alive today, he certainly would have been fascinated by the internet and the wide possibilities it offers in terms of creativity but more importantly diffusion. Youtube certainly has allowed an access to all sorts of online films and clips added to the fact that affordable amazing digital tools like Photoshop, or editing video tools like Premiere, allow to set up a personal studio and produce professional material and visual experimentations. Alas Welles truly The Renaissance Man of Film, Stage, Radio, Died At 70 in October 1985 only a few years before the digital revolution of the 1990's entirely changed the film industry and to a large degree made it available to a larger group of individual (and often individualist) artists and independent filmmakers. Welles often reminded his admirers that a film is never entirely finished. He had discovered and probably foreseen the necessity of what we call today non linear digital editing that has allowed groundbreaking progress in the often hectic process of post-production. Often dubbed as "The Renaissance Man of the 20th century". Why so ? Maybe because Welles was first and foremost a creator. A man who loved experimentation in all fields he became interested in with a thirst and insatiable hunger rarely seen amongst his contemporaries.


Born in 1915 in Kenosha Wisconsin, his father was a well-to-do inventor, his mother a beautiful concert pianist; Orson Welles was gifted in many arts (magic, piano, painting) as a child. When his mother died (he was nine) he traveled the world with his father. Shortly after his father died leaving Orson Welles an Orphan. Growing up, the young Welles was adamant to earn a living as a painter and leave formal education. His passion for the theater particularly Shakespeare drama's was truly inherited from her mother's side. He was to stage revolutionary performances of the great British dramatists through the Mercury Theater which he created with fellow actor, director John Houseman and shortly later brought these performances to the new popular medium of the time: The Radio. Fame was to soon knock at his door when  Welles aired an episode of  an adaptation of H. G. Wells' classic novel The War of the Worlds which was performed as a Halloween special on October 30th, 1938.


The Path to Glory: Orson Welles's Fictional Radio Show scares an
entire Nation prior to entering WWII but Open's Hollywood's doors
to the
Greatest Motion Picture of all Time and ironically...
a Box Office Failure.

The first half of the 60 minute broadcast was presented as a series of news bulletins, and suggested to many listeners that an actual Martian invasion was in progress. There was public outcry against the episode that made headlines and panic in the streets across the nation but it launched Welles to great fame and to ... Hollywood. This was to launch Welles into what became his life long "Hobby" that was to give Motion Pictures it's very first "Auteur" in its very true and noble sense of the word. It was also to close down the doors of Hollywood Studio's on the Maverick Genius who directed the Greatest American film of all time which also happened to be a Box Office Failure: Citizen Kane. The making of this masterpiece in itself has been subject of numerous research that paradoxically only enforced the director's enigma that pursued Welles' legendary reputation as a fiercely independent and expensive director that could not guarantee a profitable turnover for his producers. Greatly admired by nearly all film directors and particularly the French New Wave generation of Truffaut's and Goddard's, Viewing "Citizen Kane" has become compulsory in all film schools in the World as a summit in the Artform of editing and story telling.

Orson Welles's Film Legacy is divided between personal work
and memorable cameo roles sadly to finance his often unfinished
masterpieces Š

Not that Welles' Masterpiece début had revolutionized any technical device, but that it assembled all the known techniques in the industry and entirely devoted it to a unique way of story telling that was never achieved before. Cinema became synonymous of an "Artform" for the very first time. It also became a threat to all American Studio Majors of the time who refused to give full creative control to any other film director in the decades to come. The only other cinema maverick that could be mentioned to this day with a similar impact on Film Art is most probably Stanley Kubrick who unlike Welles managed to impose his demands on the industry by choosing self exile to England's Pinewood Studio's from where all his subsequent films ( each a masterpiece in its own genre's) that followed the 1962 Spartacus were to be filmed until his very last one "Eyes Wide Shut".

This is Orson Welles:
A Man of a Thousand Faces Š

As for Welles, he was to personally finance all his own subsequent films ( most of which were critically acclaimed but never financially successful) by playing cameo roles or supporting roles where he was noticed for his particularly cristal voice and strong presence. Like a Renaissance artist he depended greatly on the goodwill producers and financers willing to help him achieve his goals and strived against personal banckruptcy in order to finish his films. In his own words , he wasted a great amount of his life and energy trying to make movies rather than actually making them. Welles certainly has the modesty of truly great men for despite his regrets he has left a lifelong legacy of creation in films, Theater, Television and radio that was never achieved by anyone in his lifetime and which will certainly last the test of time. Citizen Kane has recently been hailed once again by the American Film Institute ( AFI) as the Greatest American film of All Time.

Preceded by his own Legend: Orson Welles in Tim Burton's Ed Wood.

To understand the continuous fascination with Welles Legacy and particularly his very first film Citizen Kane directed when he was barely 25 years of age, one has to look at his entire life and work. It is not just the prolific amount of material he accomplished but more sadly the number of unaccomplished work that he had to let go of due to lack of financial support. Much of this material is scattered around the world some of which have been collected and are preserved others which exist only in the form of unfinished or unedited rushes that testify of the great imagination and stamina of Motion Pictures Greatest Master.

Interesting Orson Welles who narrated Shahrokh Golestan's movie on the Persepolis Celebrations of October 1971, has also been a life long obssession for an internationally acclaimed Iranian film critic who lives and works in France. Youssef Ishaghpour was born in  Tehran in 1940. He studied Film at the prestigious Ecole Louis Lumiere and L'Idhec as well as sociology, philosophy and Art at the university of René Descartes in Paris V where he also teaches to this day. He has published essays extensively on Cinema, painting, philosopy and literature and most of his work is published in English, German, Greek, Italian, Japanes and Persian languages to name a few.

From Xanadu to Persepolis: Orson a Citizen of World Cinema narrated and
Immortalized Shahrokh Golestan's film on the Persepolis Celebrations
of October 1971
Š &

He is the author of an Anthology on the Entire Works of Orson Welles in Three Volumes compiled recently into one book edition under the title: Orson Welles: Cinéaste, Une Caméra Visible. It is an immense accomplishment in itself andis of interest to anyone interested in the history of Motion Pictures and Orson Welles in particular. I would not recommend someone to read this book before having watched some of Orson Welles' films be it Citizen Kane, The Magnificent Ambersons or some of Welles' Shakespearean screen adaptations of MacBeth and Othello as well as his great onscreen contributions to films like Carol Reed's The Third Man, Rene Cléments Is Paris Burning ? or his visually stunning The Lady from Shanghai in which he directed his then wife the beautiful Rita Hayworth. And last but not least his cameo's in films like Casino Royale a parody of James Bond that was actually based on the original work of Ian Fleming's James Bond adventures recently adapted on screen with Daniel Craig.

It should be noted that Welles' films are not always easy to watch. They can appear at first sight as pompous and boring particularly for younger viewers. I myself recall watching Citizen Kane for the first time on Iranian TV when I was something like 12 years old upon my parents recommendations and fell asleep ... It is only years later when I studied film more seriously that I truly got to appreciate Welles's artwork and creative imagination. It is impossible for me not to be fascinated by both the craft and the Man who gave birth to such memorable moments in film history.

Sadly Orson Welles who as I mentioned above accepted to narrate the Persepolis Celebrations of 1971 in Iran, also co-produced two of his very last films entitled F For Fake and The Other Side of the Wind with Iranian producers which were never released in their entirety because some of the rushes were lost due to the advent of the Islamic Revolution in Iran but also because some of this material shot over a period of 10 years is still dispersed and has legally divided the Iranian producers of the Time with Orson Welles' partner and Hollywood co-director Peter Bogdanovich.   ( Read My Article: Orson's Last Sigh).


Orson Welles died penniless and abandoned by Film Producers
and Hollywood executives but his legacy of creation continues
to thrill and will inspire generations of filmmakers to come.
Š &

Only the Future will say if Orson Welles' very last film will ever resurface in its full definitive version. In an industry where "miracles are rare but do happen" one can remain hopeful. Orson Welles was certainly its greatest Maestro which makes restoring and recovering the late filmmaker's testimonial work as essential for it would not only be Just but also a great contribution to the Arts Community in general as well as the film world in particular. May Youssef Ishaghpour's Biographical work help us pave the way to Orson Welles' Long Lost Rosebud ...


Authors Notes:


Recommended Hearing:


Audio of Orson Welles' War Of the Worlds (1938)


Orson Welles has always been where we expected him least:

Here is a report on his very Last acting Role ( Not Film): The Transformers Cartoon recently adapted to screen as a feature film by Michael Bay.


Recommended Reading:


Orson's Last Sigh by Darius KADIVAR


AFI names Citizen Kane : Greatest American Film of All Time ... (bbc)


Recommended Viewing:


Orson Welles quotes Moby Dick and wonder's  "Why Persians Held the Ocean Holy ?"...


Tim Burton makes ED WOOD MEET WELLES in film with Johnny Depp.


Recommended Play: Still Touring Award Winning play Rosebud with Christian McKay as Orson Welles: See Youtube documentary.


About the Author:
Darius KADIVAR is a Freelance Journalist, Film Historian, and Media Consultant.

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