(Just a single rule: mix-tape-style, no more than one film per director. You know, because otherwise the whole thing would be pointless.)
(#36) Touch of Evil
Crime • dir. Orson Welles • 1958 • USA
Streaming on Netflix in 15 hour-long parts, The Story of Film: An Odyssey is monumental proof that mainstream American cinema is the shiny tip of a truly vast iceberg. Its writer/director/presenter Mark Cousins has an obvious love for film. Animating his work still more forcefully, though, is an infectious, missionary zeal for quality filmmaking beyond the Hollywood hills. Often far beyond: in South America, the middle east, Africa, and Asia – and far back in time too. For us Westerners watching Netflix and Channel 4, where The Story of Film started life, he shares what is in fact the frequently untold story of how cinema, globally, is many times bigger and more diverse than our local cinemas ever admit. (See, it’s such an ingrained oversight that I just wrote “For us,” to describe Cousins’ intended audience.) In his distinctive Northern Irish accent, Cousins offers nothing less than a whole new world.
Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil, on the other hand, persuasively shows how much bigger American cinema is, too. We all know Welles began his filmmaking career with Citizen Kane, a movie with as strong a claim as any to be considered the greatest ever made. But long after he stopped being the precocious and brilliant new kid on the (Hollywood) block, Welles found his genius to be an unwelcome fit in many of the places where movies are made. He took to the road, instead, throughout America and beyond, in search of new and different ways to scorch his ideas on to celluloid. Hat in hand, and increasingly obese, he must often have seemed an awful long way from the glory days of Kane. Only… it turns out circumstances alone couldn’t keep Orson down. Like Cousins, he too had an obvious love for film. And perhaps unmatched in the long history of film, he had a special gift for making it. Touch of Evil is unbridled imagination writ large, the ecstatic expression of a natural-born filmmaker finally once again with a camera to play with.