Thursday, 26 May 2011

Capital Celluloid - Day 148: Monday May 30

The Magnificent Ambersons (Welles, 1942): BFI Southbank, NFT2, 6.10pm

The regular National Film and Television School Passport to Cinema seasons are one of the highlights of the screenings at BFI Southbank. The NFTS say the films chosen are "designed to give a continuous and comprehensive overview of every facet of cinema, from its beginnings to the present day, showcasing key films from the classic, mainstream and avant-garde of European, American and world cinema, mixing the familiar with the experimental and rediscovering forgotten gems. Guest speakers introduce each programme and there's often a lively discussion in the café after the film."

Tonight's presentation is one of the most celebrated films in cinema history, one whose ending was altered against the wishes of director Orson Welles but which still stands as one of the great achievements in the history of Hollywood.

Personally, this is my favourite film by Welles and my appreciation and understanding of its richness has been aided in no small part by two great books, This Is Orson Welles by Orson Welles and Peter Bogdanovich, which contains a condensed version of the original script, and the BFI Film Classics monograph The Magnificent Ambersons by VF Perkins. The website Frequently Asked Questions About Orson Welles is well worth a look if you want to find out more about this film and the legends that have grown up around it.

Here is the Chicago Reader review:

'Orson Welles's second completed feature (1942) and arguably his greatest film (partisans of Citizen Kane notwithstanding). By far his most personal creation, this lovingly crafted, hauntingly nostalgic portrait of a midwestern town losing its Victorian innocence to the machine age contains some of Welles's most beautiful and formidable imagery, not to mention his narration, a glorious expression of the pain of memory. A masterpiece in every way (but ignore the awkward ending the studio tacked on without Welles's approval).' With Joseph Cotten, Tim Holt, Ray Collins, Agnes Moorehead, Dolores Costello, and Anne Baxter. 88 min.

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