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CONFIDENTIAL REPORT (MR. ARKADIN)

Director: ORSON WELLES

SPAIN-FRANCE • 1955 • BLACK AND WHITE • DIGITAL VIDEO • 100 MIN


Orson Welles’ leading roles are commonly Faustian figures who sell their souls for money and power, and head for calamitous falls. Mr. Arkadin of Confidential Report is one such character, a tycoon profiteer who, in Welles’ words, ‘nourishes himself on the corruption of universe’. Drawn into his world is a young hero, Van Stratten (Robert Arden), who is hired to investigate the millionaire’s past, which Arkadin claims to have forgotten. The corpses begin to multiply.

Although poorly constructed and with a dull leading man, the film is a treasure-house of detail for the Welles aficionado. Typical themes of power, megalomania, the emptiness of wealth, and the search for the key to understanding are paraded with tremendous panache, and there are marvellous cameos from the likes of Michael Redgrave and Akim Tamiroff. If nothing else, it is worth seeing for Arkadin’s allegorical tale of the frog and the scorpion, so shamelessly plundered by Neil Jordan for The Crying Game. Heard in its proper context, the tale provides a clue to Welles’ whole conception of character and of the riddle and inexorable perversity of human nature.

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