- Paperback: 77 pages
- Publisher: British Film Institute; 1999 edition (November 26, 1999)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0851703739
- ISBN-13: 978-0851703732
- Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.2 x 6.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 2 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #764,955 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Magnificent Ambersons (BFI Film Classics) 1999th Edition
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'A magnificently passionate book' Sight and Sound
From the Back Cover
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.
Top customer reviews
A one sentence example:
"In long-take technique, as used here, the characters' experience of change, of simultaneity and sucession, convergence and seperation, anticipation, process and consequence is made more dependent on the being and doing of the actors."
And there are plenty more where that came from!
Orson Welles considered "The Magnificent Ambersons" (the film) to be better than "Citizen Kane". Unfortunately it was butchered by the studio (with some assistance by Robert Wise), losing between forty-four and fifty minutes of Welle's original cut. Even more tragic is the fact that this missing footage has never been recovered.
In this slim (74 page) volume Perkins has attempted to analyse not just the film that exists, but to put it in the context of the film that was supposed to be -- not an easy task. He makes most of these comparisons via the reconstructed "editing script", interviews (from other sources) with Welles, and then formulates some assertions of his own. As a result, we get an insight not only into the film that exists, but to the vision that it might have been.
For those who like the more theoretical aspects of film and film history, I think you'll find some interesting ideas. Perkins has studied the material extensively, and makes some telling observations (albeit, many of them worded like the quote above).
But be warned, this book is NOT a catalog of anecdotes about the making of "Ambersons". If youy looking for the gossip, inuendoes, and tales of carnage, look elsewhere.
Bottom line: this is an excellent text-book. But as with all text-books the reader has to make an effort.
Perkins apparent love of the filmic medium helps to wrap this book into tightly wrought 74 pages which though brief, covers alot of ground.
An excellent companion to the film.