Details: (PG), 93 mins, United States, English
Synopsis: When Gus Van Stratten (Robert Arkin) hears the name "Arkadin" from the lips of a dying man, he senses an opportunity. After some research, Van Stratten finds the mysterious Arkadin (Orson Welles), who suffers from amnesia. Attracted by his vast wealth and his lovely daughter, Raina, Van Stratten accepts a proposition from Arkadin: to prepare a report detailing the now-forgotten events of his life.
A forgotten Welles classic.
When Peter Bogdanovich was interviewing Orson Welles for the book This is Orson Welles, the great director could not summon the enthusiasm (or perhaps courage?) to even discuss Confidential Report aka Mr. Arkadin.“I just hate to even think of it,” Welles told Bogdanovich.
Made in 1954, the movie would not premiere until August 1955 in London. But when it did it was in a form that left its star, writer and director bewildered and dismayed. By some accounts there were as many as seven different versions of the film. Still, for Welles the movie had the promise of a hit, but commercial success was something that was to ultimately elude him.
It is a mystery yarn, a thriller with a body count and a twisty plot about an ambitious con man called Van Stratten (Robert Arden) and his search for the ‘truth’. At the centre of the story is Mr Arkadin (Welles) a corpulent, strange string-puller of great wealth and sinister disposition. Claiming to suffer from amnesia Arkadin asks Van Stratten to research his past. As even casual Welles fans would note, this plot outline offers up an echo of the director’s 1941 debut Citizen Kane. Part noir, part philosophical meditation on the nature of fiction, history and truth, Confidential Report is dazzling Welles; over the trans-continental globetrotting narrative he conjures a strange world full of role-players, impostors and impersonators. Its style is baroque and unsettling.
For Welles scholars, like James Naremore and Jonathan Rosenbaum, this film offers up a tortured history (not at all helped by the fact that while he was alive Welles remained tight-lipped and bitter over its fate). Rosenbaum expertly outlines the messy history of Confidential Report in a lengthy, detailed and fine essay, included on this excellent Madman edition of the film, and also defends the ‘Corinth version’, the one Madman has elected to release since it retains, he says, Welles preferred flashback structure (re-moved in some versions of the film).
The disc’s other major extra feature is called Orson Welles Ghost Story; this is a bit of sleight of hand on Madman’s part. It’s actually an Oscar-nominated short film, about 25mins, made in 1951 called Return to Glennascaul and directed by Welles’ cohort, Irish actor Hilton Edwards, and it features Welles in a cameo (and as narrator). It’s a fascinating piece and the story of its making is recounted here by Bogdanovich.
Topping off the extra features is a very good audio commentary by Monash academic and writer Brian McFarlane. Sound and image is good – especially considering the age and source of the materials.
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