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Best Director of the Century: Orson Welles


Though there were a lot of worthy contenders including David Lean, Sergei Eisenstein, Stanley Kubrick, Stanley Kramer, and of course the master Hitchcock, Orson Welles edged them all out for the top spot. His body of work being the defining images of an age, the long shadows that held the past, riveted the present, and spoke to the future. Simply the finest director ever to hold the title. CITIZEN KANE Welles' first movie is the most mentioned and the most praised, but it is not his best. His second movie MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS is one of the greatest movies ever made, and is superior to KANE in every area. MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS is a large, lofty panorama of changing times, and changing values as seen through the eyes of one turn of the age family.  If you haven't seen it, give yourself a present and go rent it. And even better than MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS, is the movie he didn't get directorial recognition for THE THIRD MAN.

This was Welles greatest movie, and therefore the greatest movie ever made. 1947's THIRD MAN, a classic of cinema, this stands above all other movies, all other cinema, as definitive cinema. Yes, the director officially credited with this movie is Carol Reed. But that title, with all due respect to Mr. Reed, is just window dressing.  What is best about this movie is definitive Welles, his lines, his Superciliousness, his angles and shadows. Welles, the pariah, the fallen son, making from behind the scenes the finest movie of all time.  It's impossible to watch this movie and not see Welles' definitive hand.

The scene with him and Cotton high above the city, Welles the God, spouting to the masses is vintage Orson Welles.

I'm familiar with Carol Reed's work, he's an okay director, but really only has one great movie (besides Third Man) to his credit. 1946's ODD MAN OUT. This is a great movie, one of the finest suspense movies ever, but it's no THIRD MAN. Carol Reed never had a THIRD MAN  in him, the scope, the grandeur, it's all Welles. God complexes are what Welles did best, and this story of Harry Lime, of a man looking down on the Human Condition, is the story of Welles. His vision makes it live.

This was Welles best movie, his most personal and perfect. It is both haunting and hopeful and a must for any true fan of cinema. Highest Recommendation, if you like CITIZEN KANE you'll love this movie.

And for the completionists among you here's a list rounding out Welles FIVE best films, (and its worth noting Welles didn't make many more than 5 movies, his output is really small, which says a lot about the quality of his movies. The few movies he did make are all classics) truly literary movies. Welles can put together a line of dialogue like no one else. Really, there are lines in the movies below that will take your breath away.

    1/ THIRD MAN

    2/MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS-despite complaints of editing a hugely entertaining film.


    4/LADY FROM SHANGHAI-A controversial pick from 1948, Welles the wunderkind beginning to fall out of favor with the Hollywood elite. This was his last bid budget picture. Starring his soon to be ex-wife ,the stunning and statuesque Rita Hayworth whose star was rising as Welles' declined, this picture of two lovers caught in a web of lust and lies, ignited the screen while off screen their love was falling apart. Whatever the background shenanigans it makes for onscreen fireworks, as Welles and Rita in a story of beautiful locales, balmy nights, and blood dimmed tides create a complex, but entertaining, movie of menace and mayhem... that lasts. Mesmerizing, intoxicating, and completely watchable.  

    5/THE STRANGER-In this 1946 flick, with the world still counting its dead, families still grieving, and the air still redolent with the smell of gunpowder and burning flesh, Orson scripted, directed, and starred in this Masterpiece about the aftermath of war, and mentalities of war... that persist.  Orson plays an escaped Nazi war criminal, hiding out in the heartland, chased by the implacable Edward G. Robinson as a G-Man. This is an astounding pic, Welles besides being a great director is a great actor. His performance in this movie is amazing, particularly when explaining and defending the Neitzchian ideals that spurred the world to war. His ultimate solution, his ultimate way to peace... haunts. Everyone turns in a fine performance but Loretta Young as the woman who unsuspectingly marries a monster, has the absolute best line of the movie. When you hear it you'll know it, its cheering material.  


Great movies from our Director of the Millennium! Check em out and enjoy.


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