When people consider the European phase of Orson Welle’s career, they might think of Othello, or his great, unfinished Don Quixote or even the eccentric, almost unwatchable Viva Italia. But the most representative of his movies from this era was Mr. Arkadin, released in Europe as Confidential Report: it is a baffling, ramshackle affair, and it’s quite brilliant in its own iconoclastic way.
Based on several episodes of Welles’ radio series The Lives of Harry Lime, a small-time criminal named Guy Van Stratten (Robert Arden) is hired to investigate the past of a mysterious industrialist named Gregory Arkadin (Orson Welles). Arkadin claims that he can remember nothing before the winter of 1927, and he wants Guy to dig up his life story.
Is Arkadin on the level about his motives for the investigation? Does it matter? The assignment seems pleasant enough — Guy is well-paid and travels to exotic locations to interview people about his boss’ forgotten past. But when Guy realizes that each person he interviews about Arkadin winds up dead, he begins to wonder if he’s next.
As often happened, Welles had control of this movie wrested from his control during post-production, and as a result there were no fewer than seven versions of this troubled production; it wasn’t until 2006 that a “definitive” version was put together based on Welles’ extensive notes.
Interestingly, a novelization of the movie appeared in Europe in 1955, with Orson Welles credited as author. Welles noted that not only did he not write the novel, he had no idea who paid for it to be published. It’s just the sort of mystery Gregory Arkadin would have appreciated. — Michael Popham
MR. ARKADIN aka CONFIDENTIAL REPORT screens Monday and Tuesday, May 11 and 12 at 7:00 and 9:00 at the Trylon. Tickets are $8 and you can purchase them here.