I may have only heard of this film a few days before deciding to add it to my checklist (after thirteen years, I finally made a list that’s not just in my head or bookmarks on a streaming site). I know that it concerns Elmyr De Hory, an art forger so skilled and so prolific that the art market would like to pretend he doesn’t exist, and that it was made by Orson Welles, which caught my attention. Especially when I was looking for older theatrical documentaries, which are surprisingly hard to find recommendations for.
While Orson Welles is highly talked about as an actor and director, it occurs to me that his broadly known legacy doesn’t seem to extend much beyond War of the Worlds and Citizen Kane (and an infamous rant outtake on a frozen pea commercial). I was going to say this isn’t one of his better known works, but then, not much seems to be better known.
I seem to recall that this is sometimes regarded as at least equal in stature to Citizen Kane in some way. It doesn’t get the hype that Kane does though, and it seems to get discussed to the extent of “probably Orson Wells’ best film ever, but moving on…”
Much like Kane is a portrait of a life, just with a nominal mystery to drive the plot, this seems to be a portrait of a family’s travails over possibly years. I have a sense that it’s character driven and plot light and would probably be comfortable on the same shelf with Little Women.
Apparently, this movie has appeared in the number two spot on a list of best British movies, and I only hear about it in discussion of lesser-known great Orson Welles movies. Welles is playing the (supposedly?) dead man, so, while even in the late 40s, you don’t cast Orson Welles as a corpse, his presence might be inflated by the fact that he’s the only recognizable name in the cast.
As much as personalized algorithmic suggestions tend to point me toward things I want to watch, they tend to get trained more narrowly than my tastes actually are, and they’re limited by what’s been made available based on what the userbase as a whole wants to see. So sometimes it’s a refreshing change of pace to just go to the library and see what jumps off the shelf.
Perhaps a learning AI trained on the entire back catalog of my blog and having the entire history of Hollywood movies to choose from might suggest a 40s Orson Welles thriller about searching out an escaped Nazi officer, but it doesn’t seem likely.
I have no idea what to expect. This was an algorithmically generated recommendation I’ve never heard of, and all I have to go on is that it’s a courtroom drama about some amoral law students who believe they’re above the law. And Orson Welles is in it.