L’affaire Dominici par Orson Welles (2000)

“L’affaire Dominici par Orson Welles” (2000)


the other side of television

This is a documentary on a “lost” documentary by Orson Welles. What a responsibility for those who were involved.

As you may know, Welles’ career is an opened one because some fundamental chapters of his last, more hermetic and thus more intriguing and seducing period are still to be unveiled properly. Among some certainly interesting but not so important projects, there is a film called “The other side of the wind”, which, just to be understood in terms of what happened during and after production, is a challenge on its own. The bottom line is that right now what does exist of that film that Welles was facing as his most important one, can’t be seen by ordinary mortals such as myself. And because editing had become so vital and fundamental with the evolution of Welles career, i really think that whatever he hasn’t edited properly, may be forever lost in its prime intentions: only he would know.

But his legacy is just too huge with what he left us, and the promise of what we are yet to see is just to great for anyone who cares to be satisfied. And from that perspective, anything we can put hands is worthy.

So does this documentary matter? yes. Why? Because it goes around an unseen documentary that Welles filmed and that was his first work for television. And television, though a fundamentally uninteresting and even harmful medium, at least from my point of view, was something Welles started doing in order to raise money for his private film projects, but eventually bent him and originated, remotely, his last phase. It is with television that he gains the pleasure for direct storytelling, halfway between pure oral culture of “telling stories” and the whole sublime manipulation of cinema. In doing so, he began what he would call “film essays”, something that still is to be explored.

So i suppose we all owe to television that it suggested such powerful concepts to Welles. And it all started here: the very choosing of the story, which had to matter and stand on its own, and also to allow itself to be bent, even manipulated, cast with ambiguity. What he does, being totally common today, was in some respects revolutionary to TV productions: he told the story of these murders from a number of different perspectives, apparently without interfering, even if he always established his own presence as the interviewer.

The good points of the documentary on the documentary are that in the first place we are all allowed to see the original documentary, in whatever form remains. The production process is finely presented, and interestingly enough, there are remarkable unknowing insights into Welles’ way of thinking by people completely outside cinema, such as the lawyer that explains the shots succession.

The low point would be that they eventually spend too much time revolving around the story of the Dominici case, instead of the story of Welles doing the Dominici case. Those two layers are there, but they should have been leveraged in a different way.

Also, for Welles, here and in his “around the world” documentaries, one can sense his powerful ability to write and rewrite stories, adding and manipulating layers. But the visual strenght that he would give it in “F for Fake” and whatever other excerpts we have today, is still not here, though it would still be the television to provide its roots (Portrait of Gina).

My opinion: 3/5

This comment on IMDb


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