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Mr. Arkadin

Ring a Ding Ding

Mr. Arkadin (1955/1962)

     Citizen Kane was the only film over which Orson Welles had absolute control. It was his first screen endeavor, but because it caused so much controversy and upset numerous parties, studios refused to give such outright power to the man again. Although Mr. Arkadin feels very much like a Welles production, the master complained the picture was a disaster because it was heavily edited without his input. The story has ties to another Welles movie, The Third Man. His character in that cult classic, Harry Lime, became the subject of several Welles radio plays and also inspired the plot of Mr. Arkadin

     The picture, filmed in several locations in Spain, was released overseas in 1955 and in the U.S. in 1962. It was filmed as a cooperation among French, Spanish and Swiss movie authorities and definitely has a foreign film feel to it. The flick is something that today would be called an art-house movie, but that is not to say the story is inaccessible.

     The story is told primarily by a man recounting his recent investigatory efforts to an old man, cold and ill whom for some reason the protagonist wants to remove from the building because someone is out to kill him. Our lead is Guy Van Stratten (Robert Arden) who tells a Mr. Zouk (Akim Tamiroff) his plight began with the witnessing of a murder. A man named Bracco (Gregoire Aslan) was stabbed by a peg-legged fellow who later shoots it out with the police and is killed himself. Before Bracco dies, he whispers to Guy’s girlfriend Mily (Patricia Medina) two names: Gregory Arkadin and Sophie. The information is supposedly worth a great sum of money, so both Guy and Mily begin to search the man out. Welles as Arkadin is a wealthy, powerful man and is difficult to approach, so Guy goes after him through is daughter Raina, played by new-to-film star Paola Mori.

     When Guy finally gets and audience with Arkadin he mentions what little information he knows, but instead of being outraged at the attempted blackmail, the man offers to pay him to dig into his past. He claims he woke up 30 years prior in Zürich with a large sum of money and no memory. Guy moves around the world from one knowledgeable party to the next, but part way through his investigation discovers Arkadin has been following and in some cases predicting his next move. When he finally locates Sophie (Katina Paxinou) and learns she has no intention of blackmailing Arkadin for the money he stole from her years ago, he thinks his work is nearly finished. He need only find Zouk to ensure he will not bother the mighty Arkadin. The trouble is, not long after leaving Sophie, both she and the man who led Guy to her have been killed.

     Visually Mr. Arkadin is very stark and unsettling. Welles employed low and canted angles and filled scenes with much clutter and often creepy images –Welles himself being one of them. The storytelling also works to rush the plot along. Guy seems to instantly jump from one location to another, which is consistent with the hurried manner in which he recounts the story to Zouk. Although the editing, which was outside Welles’ control, did not quite employ jump cuts, it did at times stitch two shots together in unnatural ways.

     Although the plot of Mr. Arkadin is at times difficult to follow (and the Criterion Collection re-editing of the picture even claims to make it the easiest version to watch), it is still an enthralling tale. None of the characters is particularly likeable besides maybe the women. The romantic plot between Guy and Raina is only a minor aspect, however. This is by no means a romantic movie. Nevertheless, the mystery and the conclusion are enough to keep one fixed on the action.

Source: TCM.com

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