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Magnificent Ambersons (BFI Film Classics)by V. F. Perkins
Synopses & Reviews
At the age of twenty-five, with Citizen Kane (1941), Orson Welles was the author and star of the Greatest Movie Ever Made. Then he persuaded RKO to let him adapt a favorite book, The Magnificent Ambersons. Booth Tarkington's novel had won the Pulitzer Prize in 1917, and had kept its popularity as a slice of mid-Western Americana. Its tale of dynastic ruin and social change wrought by the rise of the automobile inspired Welles' fond reconstruction of a lost world of leisure and elegance, brought to atmospheric life by a company of his favorite actors, including Joseph Cotten and Agnes Moorehead in their most famous roles.
"It was a much better picture than Kane," said Welles "if they'd just left it as it was." It was butchered by the studio, but many still prize Ambersons as the finest of all Welles' achievements.
V. F. Perkins explores Welles' genius in directing actors, his intricate weaving of his own narration in and around the drama, and his unsurpassed use of the long take to capture the finest nuance of expression and unspoken feeling. For Perkins the film has as many marvellous shots, scenes, ideas, performances as most filmmakers could hope to achieve in an entire career.
This work presents the author's own insight to Orson Welles's film "The Magnificent Ambersons". Second only to "Citizen Kane" in work, this film can never be seen as he intended it after being heavily cut by RKO. However, it remains a remarkable picture of dynastic ruin and social change.
About the Author
Through his collaboration on Movie magazine in the '60s, and his book Film as Film (1972) V. F. Perkins helped revolutionize British film criticism. A pioneer also in Film Studies, he has lectured on Film at Warwick University since 1978.
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