Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Confidential Report (aka Mr. Arkadin)

* * * (out of four)
Seen 2 August 2004 at the Brattle Theater (Orson Welles: Rogue Genius)

Orson Welles had a pretty neat idea for a thriller here - a wealthy, powerful man about to secure a politically sensitive contract hires someone to investigate his own background, ostensibly because he has amnesia. The investigator, unfortunately, finds something, and peril ensues. I think Confidential Report would be a good candidate for a remake, as Welles's film doesn't quite fulfil its potential.

The main issue is the film's lead, Akim Tamiroff, who has the gruff noir exterior down, but never really develops his character as being more than a thug. That's not just a problem in terms of the audience caring whether he lives or dies, but we've got to believe that Greogri Arkadin's beautiful and sophisticated (if rebellious) daughter Raina (Paola Mori) would fall for him. The movie's other girl, Mily (Patricia Medina), seems more his speed; she's a down-to-earth dancer skilled at using her curvy body to her advantage and his partner in trying to get Arkadin (Welles) to pay him to keep what he half-knows quiet.

Welles does do a few interesting things. Although his exposition is at times a little ham-fisted - both as writer/director and actor - he spins an interesting mystery tale which draws on the character of early-Cold War Europe, and, again, the story is good. His cast all looks their parts, although only the ladies really disappear into their characters. And his cynical ideas about image control are ahead of his time.

Unfortunatley, things tend to fall short when the characters open their mouths. All of Ms. Mori's dialogue is said to be dubbed, and I wouldn't be surprised if Tamiroff's was, too; neither seemed to quite match their lip movements. Tamiroff's American accent could use work, and Welles's European accent doesn't seem to come from anywhere. There's also a fair amount of lines and deliveries that sound odd, not quite like how a real person would actually talk.

Don't misunderstand; this is a good movie. It just happens to be one with room for improvement, and one that I'd like to see someone take another shot at.

1 comment:

Junk Monkey said...

Robert Arden played the 'gruff' lead not Akim Tamiroff. Tamiroff played Jakob Zouk the dying ex-jailbird Arden tries to rescue at the start of the film.