Monday, 10 January 2011

Chartres in Orson Welles's F for Fake

F for Fake (French: Vérités et mensonges) is the last major film completed by Orson Welles, who directed, co-wrote, and starred in the film. Initially released in 1974, it focuses on Elmyr de Hory's recounting of his career as a professional art forger; de Hory's story serves as the backdrop for a fast-paced, meandering investigation of the natures of authorship and authenticity, as well as the basis of the value of art. Loosely a documentary, the film operates in several different genres and has been described as a kind of film essay. Read more on Wikipedia

On 10th March 1947, Lowry flew back from New York to Vancouver after celebrating the success of his novel Under The Volcano. He booked himself into the Sylvia Hotel where proceeded to get drunk. He called the local paper the Vancouver News Herald to arrange an interview. In this interview published on 15th March 1947, Lowry told the reporter that Orson Welles was interested in making a movie of Under The Volcano. This was an exaggeration because though Fletcher Markle, a colleague of Welle's, had sent the director a copy of the book, apparently Welle's didn't like the novel. Personally, I have always thought that Welles would have been a good choice but it was not to be.

One thing that appeals to me about Lowry is the coincidences that can occur while studying him - Lowry himself was fascinated by Baudelaires's idea of "correspondances":


La Nature est un temple où de vivants piliers
Laissent parfois sortir de confuses paroles;
L'homme y passe à travers des forêts de symboles
Qui l'observent avec des regards familiers.
Comme de longs échos qui de loin se confondent
Dans une ténébreuse et profonde unité,
Vaste comme la nuit et comme la clarté,
Les parfums, les couleurs et les sons se répondent.
II est des parfums frais comme des chairs d'enfants,
Doux comme les hautbois, verts comme les prairies,
— Et d'autres, corrompus, riches et triomphants,
Ayant l'expansion des choses infinies,
Comme l'ambre, le musc, le benjoin et l'encens,
Qui chantent les transports de l'esprit et des sens.
— Charles Baudelaire


Nature is a temple in which living pillars
Sometimes give voice to confused words;
Man passes there through forests of symbols
Which look at him with understanding eyes.
Like prolonged echoes mingling in the distance
In a deep and tenebrous unity,
Vast as the dark of night and as the light of day,
Perfumes, sounds, and colors correspond.
There are perfumes as cool as the flesh of children,
Sweet as oboes, green as meadows
— And others are corrupt, and rich, triumphant,
With power to expand into infinity,
Like amber and incense, musk, benzoin,
That sing the ecstasy of the soul and senses.
— William Aggeler, The Flowers of Evil (Fresno, CA: Academy Library Guild, 1954)

Patrick McCarthy has noted that; "one of the most striking elements of Under The Volcano is its reliance on coincidences and correspondences less suggestive of random occurrence than the operations of a partly enclosed fate." Forest of Symbols 1994.

Lowry's first reference to Baudelaire's "forest of symbols" comes in the short story 'Hotel Room In Chartres". Returning to Welles's film, it struck me as coincidence that Welles's would talk about authorship in place which had significance for Lowry who visited the city twice in 1934 which resulted in the short story plus Lowry had touted Welles for the director of a film version of Under The Volcano. Lowry was often afraid of being branded a "fake" by critics and other writers after he was accused of plagiarism by Burton Rascoe amongst others. (See Sherril Grace's "Respecting Plagarism: Tradition, Guilt, and Malcolm Lowry's 'Pelargiarist Pen' in Strange Comfort Pg. 103

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