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May 1999, Week 1


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Fri, 30 Apr 1999 10:54:06 -0400
Sean Desilets <[log in to unmask]>
Sean Desilets <[log in to unmask]>
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Bryan, Joel, and Don,

Thanks for the interesting information. I've looked at three or four
videotapes under the name _Mr. Arkadin_, and they're all the really
terrible version in which the early scene on the waterfront begins in the
middle of a sentence on the voiceover. _Confidential Report_ is much
better, but Bogdanovich and Naremore both claim the Corinth version is
closer to Welles's intentions (for whatever that's worth) and that it has
a slightly different narrative trajectory (like _CR_, the narrative begins
in Zouk's flat and works in flashbacks, but Naremore (I think) claims that
it returns to Zouk "from time to time," which is not the case w/ _CR_ (it
begins there and comes back when the narrative catches up to Van
Stratten's arrival, but that's it)). Maybe the Corinth version is "widely
available" on videotape, and I'm just not catching it. I think the version, whose cover I recognize, is the bad edit.

At any rate, I think the movie's fascinating. Welles apparently hated it,
and you can obviously see why, but the editing within scenes is fine and
feels very Wellsian (check out the crazy cut in the Redgrave section when
he passes under the ladder). The narrative is certainly screwed up, but I
actually find it hard to believe that the film has much potential for
narrative coherence (or even interest) no matter who did the editing. In
fact, What makes it so interesting to me is that it kind of wears Welles'
ambivalence about narrative on its sleeve. For my money, the story is
largely an excuse to string together these amazing scenes in which Van
Stratten encounters Arkadin and his former cronies. The tension that
develops between those bits (which not only contain incredible
performances but are also beatifully photgraphed) and the lifeless
detective story seems to me to be the real heart of the movie. I also
think its probably Welles' funniest movie (though _The Trial_ comes


Sean Desilets                   *               "The only people who
                        *               *       believe that there is
Department of English           *               a language that is
East Hall               *               *       not theoretical are
Tufts University                *               professors of
Medford, MA 02155       *               *       literature."
[log in to unmask]              *                       Paul de Man


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