Mr. Arkadin (1955) Orson Welles
(1:39 – Corinth edition)
Criterion DVD – library
I’m uncertain whether I can do justice to Mr. Arkadin either as a film or as one of the oddest entries in cinematic history, but here goes. In Naples, an American cigarette smuggler named Guy Van Stratten (Robert Arden, above right) hears the dying words of a man named Bracco, who has just been stabbed. Bracco gives Van Stratten two names, names that will supposedly lead to great riches. One of those names is Gregory Arkadin. After much searching, Van Stratten locates Arkadin (Orson Welles) who informs him that he wants Van Stratten to investigate someone. Who? Gregory Arkadin. It seems Arkadin can’t remember anything before 1927. And we’re off…
There’s so much more to the film, but that’s really all you need in order to get started. Mr. Arkadin (the film and the character) is convoluted but borders on greatness. It may be a masterpiece, but we’ll likely never know. Like many of Welles’s films, Mr. Arkadin was chopped up against the director’s wishes and reconstructed in various versions. I recommend that you at least read the Wikipedia article on the film, but Mr. Arkadin has quite a storied past. According to that article, the film exists in at least seven different versions and possibly nine. Some of these were released, the first one in Spain in 1955, yet the film wasn’t shown in America until 1962.
I watched the “Corinth” version, which is the first of three versions that appear on the Criterion Collection DVD set and is believed to be the closest to Welles’s original vision. (There is no definitive edition.) Another version with a slightly shorter running time (known in some cases as Confidential Report) is the most common version shown in Europe. Welles himself called the project the “biggest disaster” of his life. The film certainly contains elements of Citizen Kane and The Third Man, but it’s not quite either of those films. I certainly want to see the other editions of the film from the Criterion set and read more about the film as a whole. Those who are more knowledgable about the film, please feel free to weigh in.
Photos: Benito Movieposter, F for Films, Critic After Dark, Share the Files