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"Magician: The Astonishing Life & Work of Orson Welles": The Elvis Presley of Film 

Wednesday, Mar 11 2015
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If cinema has an Elvis Presley, it would be Orson Welles. At no point does Chuck Workman's relentlessly entertaining documentary Magician: The Astonishing Life & Work of Orson Welles state that as a thesis, but the parallels are hard to miss. Both were preternaturally talented artists who made works in their early 20s that simultaneously defined and altered their chosen industries, and then spent the rest of their careers and lives flaming out, constantly working but never given the freedom to repeat or even approach their earlier successes. Certainly, neither of them can be summed up in a 94-minute documentary; multiple documentaries and narrative films have been made about Welles' Citizen Kane (still the greatest film ever made, full stop) and his panic-inducing 1938 War of the Worlds broadcast, but if nothing else, Magician is a good primer for those who are unfamiliar with Welles, while functioning as a greatest-hits reel for students of the man. It also helps that the man in question talked a great deal on camera about his life, and while it's noted that he wasn't the most reliable narrator, he was never less than entertaining. And if Magician inspires the uninitiated to check out Citizen Kane, Touch of Evil, or F for Fake, that'll be the best trick of all.

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Sherilyn Connelly

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