The internet is black magic; the addict in you would have loved it.’ Mark Cousins begins his cine-love-letter to Orson Welles by filling him in on what he’s missed since his death in 1985. For the majority of this esoteric but enjoyable doc, though, he meets the filmmaking titan on his own turf, delving deep into an amazing, undiscovered archive of letters, sketches and paintings to explore what made him tick – his ‘visual thinking’. It turns out there was almost nothing the actor, filmmaker and bon vivant couldn’t do – including, surprisingly, some really cute doodles of Santa.
Along the way, Cousins takes in Welles’s love affairs with Hollywood starlets, his travels and his outsized appetites. There’s footage from his masterpieces to delight cineastes and some smart analysis of his regular takes on Shakespeare. For a devoted fan, Cousins isn’t blind to Welles’s flaws, but it’s the creativity rather than that massive ego that intrigues him. The film is most interesting where the two collide, such as when we see the angry desert landscape Welles painted as he rued the botched studio cut of ‘Touch of Evil’. If Cousins leans a touch heavily on interpreting throwaway drawings as living Rorschach tests, the art still presents a vivid new prism through which to explore this endlessly fascinating man.