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The Magnificent Orson Welles

Friday, April 4, 2008
7:00 p.m. The Trial
Orson Welles (France/Italy/W. Germany/Yugoslavia, 1962)

The Trial wasn’t Welles’s first choice for a Kafka adaptation—he preferred The Castle—but he called the end result “the finest film I have ever made.” Kafka’s Josef K is trapped by language; Welles makes him a prisoner of mise-en-scène, abstract anxiety translated into the vividly physical. K (Anthony Perkins) awakes and is arrested for an undisclosed crime by a pair of cops straight out of a B movie. The search for justice, or at least an explanation, leads him past desolate Zagreb apartment blocks and to the abandoned Gare d’Orsay, a shifting maze of uncanny offices and vast halls inhabited by bureaucrats, inexplicable women, and condemned people waiting for fate to call their number. Balancing the baroque expressionism of Welles’s visual style are a script and performances—including the squirming, petulant Perkins and Welles himself as the Advocate, imperious in his lassitude—that emphasize the affinity between nightmare and comedy.

—Juliet Clark

• Written by Welles, based on the novel by Franz Kafka. Photographed by Edmond Richard. With Anthony Perkins, Jeanne Moreau, Romy Schneider, Welles. (118 mins, B&W, 35mm, From Milestone)