Five documentaries made for British television by Orson Welles. The renowned Welles, who directed this television series, lends his inimitable style to this tour through Europe. In Paris, Welles introduces us to famed artists Juliette Greco and Jean Cocteau, who lived in the St. Germain Des Pres quarter. In London we meet the Chelsea pensioners; in Spain we attend a Madrid bullfight and visit the Basque country. Somewhere between a home movie and a cinematic essay, these short films have been described by French critics as the missing link in Welles' work.
Around the World with Orson Welles does not loom large in the director's legend. It is an obscure 1955 British television series he directed and in which he appeared. But its video release is an engaging detour, a rediscovered missing link in Welles's estimable filmography.
Each of the five episodes contained on this video is in part home movie, travelogue, and cinematic essay. Welles is a traveler and not a tourist. Don't expect visits to the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, or other well-trodden attractions. Instead, he guides us into the heart of a country, it's culture and people, from Paris's sidewalk cafes (where actor Eddie Constantine winks at the camera) to a Spanish bull ranch.
Wherever Welles travels, viewers will gladly follow, if only to relish his love of language and to hear the rich music of his voice consider such phrases as "a pride of lions" and "a rumination of cows." His digressions, among them "a word for old-fashioned travel... that takes long enough to give you the chance to see where you're going before you get there," are alone worth the trip. He is an ingratiating interviewer and the locals he engages in conversation are not the least bit intimidated by his commanding presence. In London, he is briefly heckled outside a pub.
One programming advisory: two episodes visit Basque country. The second repeats content from the first. Fast forward through the bit about the "perfectly illegal and harmonious collaboration" to capture pigeons for delightful encounters between Welles and Basque children. --Donald Liebenson