Tuesday, 26 January 2010


'I'm turning everything full cycle. I want to explode cinema to such an extent that future generations will believe the medium to be a myth; Billy Wilder will seem like Bigfoot, and the Gish sisters a pair of gorgeous Loch Ness monsters, imagined only.' Orson Welles, 1946.

.. and so, finally, we get to Welles, The Great Orsini, the man whose personality and presence almost rubs itself out. Citizen Kane sits near the summit of every list, but Welles' subsequent work hides in its shadow. Much of his real-life substance has the shimmer of the fake about it: When critics dubbed his adaptation of Don Quixote a failure that would never make it to the screen, he responded by borrowing their cheeky name for it: Non Quixote (1947) was a chewed-up, spat out version of the myth, with Welles as both the titular hero and a modern filmmaker making a film about him. And thus a bipolar career opened up. For every impeccable Shakespeare adaptation there was to be shadowed web of cheaply made chunterers: His problems with studios, critics and his own ego led him to conceive a series of films under the title The Foul Papers that would be a spewing of interlinked ideas, filmed quickly so as to not suffer the overburdening of money and expectation, and rarely widely released. They were begun, like so many great things (including the Fictional Film Club itself), with the playful liberation of a joke, but grew into something more steadfast. And funnier.

The rabble of flicks in this broad series seem to fight among themselves, elbowing their way to the door. Heir Removal (1952), a tough runt, holds attention through the sheer volume of its dizzy anti-Roylist satire. Cruel Aprils (1949) is a doomed drunk, an elliptical inversion of Eliot's The Waste Land. Bellerophon (1944) was, Welles suggested, created when he went back in time to plant seeds that would grow into his great epic. Indeed, unknown actor Pearl Stringer was cast in that movie as Bellerophon's unlover Anteia, and she went on to star in many Welles films. Weirdly, no-one remembered her being in the earlier movie until she starred in the latter, her history growing before the world's eyes. Arch-genius invents time-travel, no-one notices. Just as Welles 'started at the top and worked his way down' as he had it, he somehow managed to work backwards from the future. Bellerophon skulks in the corner of the house, undiscovered.

(The Foul Papers series is not to be confused with Welles' other eternally unfinished run of overlapping stories, titled NOTES, that he claimed 'pull together every arc of myth, philosophy and truth into a rainbow of religious noise'.1)

Remain Cordial To The Stick Incest (1962) is a crescendo, of sorts. It is as if the filmmaker took everything that was left and threw it in the pot. Welles took kernels from all of his previous efforts, and wrapped them up in a construct half-inched from Flann O'Brien's modernist nonsense novel At Swim Two Birds. Various characters from Welles' films litter the scenes, confused and desperate to escape; they plot to kill their creator, the author Shag Lipton (Welles himself). Lipton, for his part, discovers a way in which he can in literature and literally, give birth to fully-formed adults. He explains, '...the benefits are obvious. No turgid backstory is required, no slow-moving exposition of tedious childhoods. Instead, we have sons who can be breadwinners from the womb, or daughters who are sprung out as attractive marriage propositions, or further, we can lay pensioners onto the operating table who are old and crippled enough to claim compensations from the state: parenthood is both a joy and an immediate economic advantage'.

Lipton's wife Sara (Jean Simmons) gives birth to Flashey (William Holden), a forty year-old gambler, shagger and boozer who immediately causes problems in the household with his advances towards his own mother. Lipton insists on a bed in a separate room rather than a crib in the main room, causing distress in proud mother Sara. Society begins to shun the Liptons at parties. Their son, older than they, is a public disaster, smashing glass and hearts unevenly all over the community of ex-pat American and British wives in Madrid.
Lipton assaults them from his window, describing them as '... bona-fide Marthas, lipsticked frigidaires and dried-out harpies of spastic alacrity, tense victims of a benign sisterhood, owned by thick vikings of the market, who climb over one another's gowns, splitting seams to reach an imaginary head table.'

... and meanwhile, the walking carcasses of Lipton/Welles' past creations fill the house, vengeful and waiting for the moment the creator averts his eye. He does. They put an ice-pick through his skull and escape to another film entirely, Decadent Midwife (1965) where they spawn and split up, leaving the ludic environs of philosophical parlour amusements for a life, one assumes, off- celluloid.

Harry Lime, Charles Foster Kane, Hank Quinlan and Macbeth bubble in a pool of blood, pasts both celebrated and shed. Welles implodes. 'There are no more waters in these Welles' cries Hollywood Reporter, but the big man turns his back.

Remain Cordial To The Stick Incest Directed by Orson Welles Produced by Orson Welles Written by Orson Welles, the cast Starring Orson Welles, Jean Simmons, William Holden, Rosebud Productions/United Artists Release Date US: Oct 1962 Tagline 'Gotta Get Outta This Movie!'

1. I mentioned NOTES in a previous entry regarding Walter Friend's Dijonnaise in FFC, January 2009.


  1. Why do you waste your time writing this nonsense?

  2. Why do you waste your time writing comments on this nonsense?

  3. Nice job, anonymous. Love your work. Truly.