Download The Magic World of Orson Welles PDF

TitleThe Magic World of Orson Welles
PublisherUniversity of Illinois Press
ISBN 139780252081316
CategoryArts - Film
File Size4.1 MB
Total Pages353
Table of Contents
Introduction: Orson Welles at 100
1 The Prodigy
2 The Magician
3 Citizen Kane
4 The Magnificent Ambersons
5 The Radicalization of Style
6 Touch of Evil
7 The Gypsy
8 The Trial
9 Chimes at Midnight
10 Art About Art (and Sex)
11 Between Works and Texts
Bibliographic Notes
Document Text Contents
Page 2

The Magic World
of Orson Welles

Page 176

touCh of eviL · 165

The contrast between Tanya’s rooms and the city of Los Robles is empha-
sized when Quinlan stands in the streets, munching a candy bar, and is cap-
tivated by the sound of a pianola, while in the distance Adair bids reluctant
farewell to the more modern prostitutes of the Rancho Grande. A moment
later Quinlan steps dreamily onto Tanya’s veranda, drawn toward her par-
lor as rubbish blows past an oil derrick behind his head. Inside, however,
Tanya’s rooms create the same ironies as Kane’s snowy paperweight, and the
emotional power of the scene rises out of a tension in the mise-en-scène be-
tween romance and cynicism. Tanya herself is both mother and whore, both
mystic and cynical realist, whereas Quinlan seems to have stepped into an
ironic childhood. In the two pictures here (see figs. 6.1 and 6.2), for example,
he is first shown eating candy the way a child sucks his thumb; he is then
seen drowsing amid Victorian bric-a-brac, stuffed animals, and the bullfight
memorabilia of Welles’s own adolescence, all of it thrown together like a junk
shop. The effect of these bordello scenes is both funny and sad, especially
in the way the present keeps intruding on the past: Quinlan is so aged and
fat that Tanya doesn’t recognize him; a television set is perched atop the pi-
anola; and even the music of Henry Mancini is synthetically sweet, perfectly

Page 177

166 . chapter 6

appropriate to a place where everything has become “so old it’s new.” But
while the imagery creates an impressive poetry, the plot drives forward on
its melodramatic path. In one shot (omitted in the original release) Quinlan
sees the figure of Vargas moving ghostlike outside Tanya’s windows. Welles’s
symbolism is clear: Quinlan is compared to the noble bull above his head,
prepared for the kill by banderillas; meanwhile Vargas, whose reflection we
see in the mirror at the extreme lower left, is compared to the matador’s
photograph on the wall. In his drunkenness Quinlan assumes that Vargas
is a dream, even though it has become obvious, as Tanya says to him in her
fortune-teller’s voice, that his “future is all used up.” Desperately, he avoids the
consequences of his acts until the end of the movie, when he shoots Menzies
and tries vainly to wash the blood off his hands.
In contrast to this fascinating villain, Mike Vargas is the nominal hero
of the film and the bearer of Welles’s own political viewpoint. As Charlton
Heston has remarked, he is mainly a “witness” to Quinlan’s fall, but he re-
mains an admirable figure, torn between his sense of justice and his love for

Figures 6.3: Quinlan, compared to a bull, senses Vargas, compared to a matador.

Page 352

james naremore is Chancellors’ Professor Emeritus at Indiana
University. His books include On Kubrick, �e Films of Vincente
Minnelli, More than Night: Film Noir in Its Contexts, Acting in the
Cinema, Sweet Smell of Success, and An Invention without a Future:
Essays on Cinema.

Page 353

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Association of American University Presses.

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