ToddBaesen wrote, quoting Welles:
"WELLES: For 30 years people have been asking me how I reconcile X with Y! The truthful answer is that I don't. Everything about me is a contradiction, and so is everything about everybody I know. We are made out of oppositions; we live between two poles. There's a Philistine and an aesthete in all of us, and a murderer and a saint. You don't reconcile the poles. You just recognize them."
"Like Harvey, I sometimes get very angry at Welles. He was some kind of an ass. It is hard to come to grips with the fact that a man I consider such a great talent ended up as such a joke and a failure. And he did die, a joke and a failure, by the world's standards. But sometimes the world's standards do not matter. All I know is that, from a very young age, the films of Orson Welles touched my soul unlike anything else in this vivid, confusing, contrary world. Perhaps I am afraid that, like the man who spoke to me most clearly in my life, I too will die a joke and a failure. It is not a comforting prospect. But when all is said and done, f*ck it, I would rather raise my glass to that man than to anyone else, then, now, and hereafter..."
Thank you Todd, for giving me words from Welles that justify my own sometimes contradictory feelings about the artist that I revere more than any other.
" Harvey and Mido, how many masterpieces have you created?"
My answer, Tony, is the same number as you, Todd, Glenn, and most if not all the members of this board - none, zip, zero, nada. So what. Big deal. If you think that a question like that is going to upset me, think again. What does upset me is that one of the most contrary and contentious members of this board, whose side I have taken in many a Wellesnet knife fight, should feel the need to put on his commissar granny glasses and attempt to quash dialogue with an ad hominem attack. It's revolting and unbecoming of you. If you want to respond to my reasoned argument with a reasoned argument, please do so. Otherwise, can it. Your unfocused anger, your "slow burn" contributes exactly nothing.
I'll tell you what I am. I am a 43 year old small business owner, one of the petty bourgeoise that Welles looked down his nose at. I keep ten people gainfully employed in a difficult economic environment that sees my compatriots going out of business left and right. It's a small accomplishment, in the greater scheme of things, but one that I am proud of. I am the type of person, on a smaller scale, that Welles should have spent his time charming. In my case it would have been easy. Like many of my ilk, I have a romantic streak a mile wide that I keep a heavy lid on. Also, like many of my ilk, I admire those like Welles who allow their romanticism to run full throttle. I don't have a creative bone in my body, but have been blessed with a sensibility that knows talent when it sees it. I worship talent and creativity, and do everything I can to nourish it; all I ask is that the talent recognize the importance and validity of my own particular skills. Because neither of us can function without the other. Apollo needs Dionysus. Chaos must be harnessed by order. Yin must be balanced by Yang.
Welles was a Dionysian artist. He was a great acolyte of that great god, perhaps the greatest. He worshipped this god in his life and in his art, producing extraordinary results. But his one-sided worship had its deleterious consequences. Apollo won't be denied. In ancient Athens, the shrines of Dionysus and Apollo stood next to each other - that incredible civilization knew the importance of keeping both gods placated. Welles did not. And he, like another great Dionysian, Nietzsche, eventually paid a price for it. For Nietzsche, it was madness, and a complete cessation of creative activity at a relatively early age; for Welles, no madness, but a series of artistic and personal setbacks that left him creatively bereft for the last 15 years of his life.
Don't misunderstand me, I am not blaming Welles for this. He made his choices, and those particular choices led to the works of art that we do have, magnetic, majestic, and irrefutable. Moreover, Welles was no sniveller, no crybaby; he made his choices knowing, I think, full well what the consequences would be. He was tough, brave, a warrior. He had BALLS. Most days I think, if I had met him, I would have fallen down in front of him in supplication. On other days, I think I would have slapped him. Because he was an ass. His judgement was terrible. He put faith in people who did not have his best interests at heart, and sh*t on those who could have made his life easier. I think he went completely off the rails in the late 60's when he hooked up with Oja Kodar, hanging out with people with none of his talent and all of his indiscipline, who encouraged his worst instincts. Welles the Dionysian warrior gave us 11 incredible works before 1970; after 1970, he gave us one. He had at least a decade to produce a viable work print of Don Quixote and The Other Side of the Wind, even without access to the negatives, and did not. By the time he woke up, some time in the 80's, and decided that he needed to change course, it was too late.
David Thomson and Charles Higham produced crappy biographies of Welles because, for whatever reason, they started out loving the man and ended up producing portraits of a monster. They were wrong. Welles was anything but a monster; he was difficult, yes, and larger than life; but he was a man who maintained a remarkable coterie of loyal and lifelong friends. He seems not to have had a vindictive bone in his body. I wish I had known him. But Thomson and Higham got one thing right, however dimly - Welles was a tragic character, like Othello, like Macbeth, like Lear; great men, capable of superlative achievement, who yet contained the seeds of their own destruction. Tragedy is the Dionysian art form par excellance, and Welles knew it intimately. The definitive Welles biography has yet to be written; the surface has barely been scratched. So instead of quashing debate on this site, how about we encourage it, in the hope of reaching new insight. Here's one for you, Todd. Gore Vidal knew Tennessee Williams intimately, as a friend, as an artist, and as a fellow sexual revolutionary. Vidal was brutally critical of Williams, in interviews and in print, over what he saw as Williams failings as an artist and as a man. But I don't think anyone has ever written as sympathetically, and as touchingly, of the artist and of the man, as the notoriously cold and cynical Vidal has written of Williams. There is room for both, because both attitudes arise from the same source.