Me and Orson Welles proved an engaging feature last evening. A party of three Coles enjoyed the hospitality of our favoured arts centre; warming beverages, invigorating cola drinks and an array of chocolate treats accompanied us into the auditorium. It was merry.
I would suggest that the ‘Orson Welles’ of the title engaged this viewer more than the ‘Me’ aspect. ‘Me’ was Richard Samuels, played fairly routinely by teen heartthrob Zac Efron, a youthful chap decreed by fate to join Welles’s company and play the small part of Lucius in his 1937 production of Julius Caesar. The nipper’s elevation from high school routine to the centre of theatrical splendour proved an interesting and enjoyable plot. The film’s main purpose was to proffer an autobiographical snapshot of one fascinating slither of a fabulous life (played brilliantly by Christian McKay). This is Orson Welles before the War of the Worlds controversy, before Citizen Kane, The Magnificent Ambersons and The Third Man. The portrait of the flowering of a genius is splendid. Welles’s production of Julius Caesar, a ground-breaking modern-dress effort, quite brutally edited and set in a European fascist state, was highly acclaimed in its day; this feature’s ability to recreate a master’s directorial hand, taking a diverse yet talented cast through rather eccentric rehearsal processes, through rows and rages to a triumphant opening night is worthy and credible. The last hour of the feature is truly compelling. The ‘Me’ portion of the film is generally left to one side in order for Welles’s alchemy to be displayed; a series of scenes from the play are presented and it is jaw-dropping stuff. I can only imagine what an impact this play would have had on a 1930s audience; being privy to such original thinking and brave conceptualisations must have been tremendous. The feature succeeds partially in suggesting the sense of wonder a young actor must have experienced but fully in demonstrating the awesome talent of one of the last century’s major players.