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SCREEN REALISM MAY BE A LITTLE TOO REAL
"Citizen Kane" Breaks Away From Hollywood Cream Puff Glamour, But Rather Overdoes It
Claudette Colbert can't make up her mind between Brian Aherne and Ray
Milland in this scene from "Skylark," new attraction for the Stote.
Screen Notes Pro THE CHIEL
WHAT a grand time Orson
Welles had making "Citi-
You can see it in every foot of this amazing picture at the Plaza.
i It must be a lot of fun being able to
let your head go like that. To have no Interference when you do everything ex- actly the opposite to what's expected of
There must be hundreds of us who'd like to debunk Hollywood standards like that. But none of us get the chance possibly because we're not Orson Welles. Orson must have remarkable drive, per- sonality, and what-lt-takes to sell Holly- wood the idea that he could break up all the cinematic tricks learnt through long years of experience and turn out something that made money at the box office.
Though it's easy enough to understand why Orson wanted to make "Citizen Kane." Long years of squirming through Hollywood's more synthetic products makes us all for his effort to feed us meaty realism instead of cream-puff glamour. Even though it might have been
better had he dished it out In homoeo- pathic doses until he got used to the idea. For, in trying to get as far away from Hollywood tradition as possible, Orson has rather overdone it in a few spots. In fact, there were occasions when we felt the cure was worse than the com- plaint.
Voices breaking In on each other in a babble of conversation, for instance. This is obviously Welles's reaction to the carefully studied and perfectly timed dia- logue of the orthodox screen and stage play.
In the more familiar type of show, Heroine steps forward from left and says
her piece Hero (right) politely waits for her to get this off her chest, and then recites his little bit - and when Father or Uncle or the Other Man, who all through this has been lurking slightly out of focus In the background, realises that both Hero and Heroine have quite finished their speeches, he, in turn, comes down to add his spot of dialogue to the situa-
Ginger Rogers has three admirers in "Tom, Dick, and Harry," unusual comedy attraction for the Regent. Here she is with Harry (Burgess Meredith) ond
Tom (George Murphy) Dick couldn't make it!
We've got used to this kind of thing on the screen and stage, and it rarely strikes us that we don't carry on conversatiors like that in real life. If the unreality of it did occur to us, we didn't worry. For we go to shows primarily to be enter- tained and relaxed, and we want them presented deliberately and clearly so the old brain doesn't have to work too hard following them.
That, perhaps, is where Orson Welles's interesting and courageous experiment fails as screen entertainment. He has
rather lost sight of the fact that most of us go to shows to give our war-jagged nerves a rest. Not to have them blitzed still further by frenzied, high-pitched voices shouting at each other in sporadic bursts of unintelligible sound.
In his bold bid for realism, this 25 year-old Pooh Bah of American show business assails our optical senses in simi- lar manner to our aural. He wanted to put depth into his film - that third dimensional, stereoscopic effect which photographic experimenters, both in the still and animated field, have been hav- ing skin actions over for years. So he "stopped down" his cameras. That is, decreased the aperture of his lens to in- duce an added sense of perspective into the flat surface of the picture screen.
But the finest "movie" camera has its
limitations. If you want to do extra busi- ness on the swings, you've got to be satis- fied to lose just that amount on the roundabouts. So, in gaining his quite effective depth, Welles has lost a fair amount in photo quality.
Result is that for the best part of "Citi- zen Kane" you strain your eyes trying to make out what's going on in the murky gloom before you on the screen. Which is just as jarring to the nervous system after a time as the raucous voices. For, though heavy shadows, fuzzy outlines, and minimum lighting are as often as not regarded as Art these days, the
muddy blacks and degraded highlights of the Welles cameracraft is just poor photography.
Hollywood in spite of its shortcomings knows all there is to know about taking pictures. Its films have a light quality, crispness, and clarity which 'movie' makers in other parts of the world can never successfully reproduce It's "still" photographs are similarly the envy and despair of photographers all over the globe. A ' still" from a British studio put
Michael Redgrave (in the title role) takes tea with Diana Wynyard in the screen version of H G Wells's "Kipps," new feature for the Athenaeum.
alongside one from a Hollywood company gives you striking contrast in quality. And it's not in favour of the British pro-
So this clever and ambitious young man can't teach Hollywood anything about cameracraft. Not even in his ob- jection to the closeup. For, though mam- moth faces filling a screen (so magnified that you can see the pores opening and closing!) may be all wrong optically, it's no more so than tiny figures speaking from the end of incredibly long rooms, all cut of "drawing," as Welles does it. Nor do interiors ever appear so dull and murky to normal vision as they do to Orson's cameras. Nor faces In close proximity so distorted to the natural sight as when they move close to the lens in "Citizen
Briefly, in trying to correct Hollywood's exaggerations, Orson Welles has dug up a whole lot more exaggerations himself.
But, though the photographic work is open to a lot of criticism, "Citizen Kane" is a fascinating production with a curi- ous appeal. While actually viewing it, there is much in it that disturbs. But you haven't left the theatre many minutes when you want to go back and see it again!
And we liked his players - particularly Dorothy Comingore and Joseph Cotten. These 2 (and all the rest of his per- formers) were new to screen work, and
were not marred by any of the Glamour with which Hollywood insists on spoiling its players
And we liked the way Orson did away with all those meaningless "credits" at the start of his picture, and tagged them on at the end. And the way he intro- duced his artists after the picture, and his dramatic, episode manner of telling his story - though it did get a little con- fusing in spots
In fact, we found it ail very entertain- ing - mainly because it was not limited to conventional methods.
But there Is the danger that amateur photographers and our more "Arty"
photographic studios will fall under the spell of "Citizen Kane" camera technique and start producing muddy-looking prints with over-assertive backgrounds and no highlights. But Cousin Harry or Auntie Ethel photographed in a half-light way down at the other end of tile studio mightn't be such a bad idea, at that!