Confidential Report (Mr. Arkadin)

Orson Welles's famous quip that motion pictures are “the biggest electric train set a boy ever had” is embraced by Confidential Report, a dizzying whatsit stuffed with inventive camera tricks, hallucinatory images, and playful narrative bombast. Darting across Europe as fast as his debtors chased him, Welles concocted this pulpy tale of an American cigarette smuggler (Robert Arden) battling-get ready-a Polish baroness, white slavers, an Amsterdam fence, a Copenhagen flea-circus trainer, and the shadowy Gregory Arkadin (Welles), a secretive financier whose “amnesia” hides a more sinister truth. But as with all toys and baubles, it's not the structure that matters-in fact, control was taken from Welles in the editing of the film-but the joy it gives, and Confidential Report is Welles reveling in all the unbound pleasures that motion pictures can provide (while also supposedly dubbing fifteen parts himself, and marrying luminous costar Paola Mori). “A film, which, for all its strangeness, is seldom less than brilliant” (New York Times), this magician's tale was named one of the top twelve films of all time in a 1958 Cahiers du Cinéma poll.

Confidential Report is repeated on Sunday, September 4.

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