Tony: What is this? You are tag teaming me with Todd Baesen. And when I'm looking the other way, one or the other of you is sucker punching me! Where's the referee?
Of course, evil Todd Baesen is right when he says that THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND is more obviously autobiographical than CITIZEN KANE. TOSOTW is like the warehouse at the end of KANE. Everything that Welles ever thought had value is thrown in there, left waiting for someone to put it together for him. CITIZEN KANE, by accident or design, is his artistic model, which he built upon, or took away from, for the rest of his life.
I'm not a scholar. I'm just an amateur. I'm a lover of things Wellsian.
Young man, I was there at the beginning -- before the beginning!
But on a bad day, all I have are my intuitions.
My memory, in comparison to five years ago, is shot.
Still, Tony, having been there before the beginning (meaning, just barely, before anyone heard of Orson Welles), I still don't think you realize how influential "dollar book Freud" was in the 1930's and 1940's. All that Dali stuff Hitchcock put into SPELLBOUND, the Theremin, the dream imagery -- and all those veiled sexual interpretations. Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's SMALL BACK ROOM, with the hero struggling against a gigantic bottle of scotch. People so inclined literally believed all that stuff. The film makers believed a lot of it. They were educating the masses. The general public was a good deal more literal then.
[Sometimes, these days, I wish we could go back, but we can't.]
I think you forget that in 1925, when Welles was ten, Dr. "Dadda" Bernstein was sending the little fellow to Madison, Wisconsin, for "psychological testing"! Do you realize how rare that would have been in 1925? And of course, one of the things they would have been looking for would have been "homosexual tendencies." If that is why you are hung up on Welles and Shakespeare's sexual proclivities, okay, you are welcome to your obsessions. But dwelling upon them, strikes me as a bit strange, when you are protesting biographical interpretations of Welles' work. Even Evil David Thomson only devotes six pages out of 460 to the subject.
Fifty years later, certainly thirty years after the making of CITIZEN KANE, Welles talking to Peter Bogdanovich is sliding away from the psychological interpetation of "rosebud" because the verdict had come in on psychoanalysis, that most of it was worthless mumbo-jumbo, but I say again, that in memory, "rosebud" is valid, and Welles must have bought into it.
That there are not autobiographical references salted all through CITIZEN KANE is not to have eyes and ears!
If there were a professor in the house, I'd ask him, if all that matters is the work, on the page or on the screen, what are we doing here? We should all be just down in the swap section. There is no point to the rest of Wellesnet. We all sit in the dark, and see what we shall see.
Wrong. I say that when we watch CITIZEN KANE in the cool dark of its tomb, we see Orson Welles, we see ourselves, we see America, we see our future, we see our beginning, and we see our end.
That's why CITIZEN KANE is probably the greatest film ever made in the English-speaking world.
Tony, it is Baesen who has led you astray, I know.
Just lie back on the couch. Let me sum up this session.
We both admire Jonathan Rossenbaum. He has done more to keep Welles' reputation growing, done more to refurbish and complete the legacy of Welles' works, than anyone I can think of. But just because we both admire him and his efforts, does not mean that we have to condemn the intuitive productions of David Thomson. Maybe, it is because CITIZEN KANE had such a singular effect on both our lives, maybe it's because Thomson is a fellow San Franciscan, maybe it is because when he was seeing the picture for the first time, I was seeing it for a second, in the same city (London), in the same Classic repetory film house chain, that I have a soft spot for his work.
He is not an academic writer. He is a poetic writer, if you will. But while he may have been in the thrall of the bad turn biographical writing took in the time of "Dutch," I find many of his intuitions and conclusions valid. I would put him up against Simon Callow -- but not Rossenbaum -- any day (both of whom he politely credits in Rosebud).
Let us, some time soon, take evil Todd Baesen up on his invitation to meet in that once startlingly marvelous outside elevator at the Fairmount (which Cocteau raved about), where Welles said he confronted Hearst. [If you have had much contact with minor aristocrats or present neocons, you know why Hearst ignored Welles: Never allow inferiors to speak first.] Todd Baesen, you, and I will have a drink. All will be well.
[But now, I don't want to enter that elevator, and find you over in a corner with Larry French (whom I believe lives, too, in the City by the Bay). None of this chanting: "Macresarf1 doth murder sleep!" But if you see Dr. Baesen in noirish light, I'm convinced he will not have a shadow. You have been warned!]
Anyway, to good scholarship, and to the human heart.