Dir. Oliver Parker, UK, 2006, 92 mins
Cast: Danny Huston, Paz Vega, Diego Luna
Review by Carol Allen
Huston gives a very creditable impression here of creative genius and enfant terrible Orson Welles in one of the many down periods of his career. The time is 1948. Heartbroken after the break up of his marriage to Rita Hayworth, Welles arrives in Rome to star in a B movie costume pot boiler at Cine Citta studios. Journalists won't let him forget his heartbreak, calling him "Mr Hayworth" and asking about his ex wife. Things perk up for him when he is drawn towards his co-star the beautiful and enigmatic Lea (Vega). But when her bit part player stepfather is murdered on the set and dies in Welles's arms, he finds himself involved in a murder mystery to boot.
It's an intriguing story which throws an interesting if arguably fictional light on Welles the man. It's the Welles of his 1974 documentary “F for Fake” with its emphasis on fakery and trickery both in film and in life. The world of depressed and socially divided post war Rome with its fraudsters, politicians, thugs and thespians is convincingly evoked and the scenes of the actual film making are fun, as is the way Orson can't resist interfering in the direction of the movie. It's all a bit pastiche film noir in style with two femmes fatales for the price of one - Vega and the equally beautiful Anna Galiena as her mother, a former star of the silent era. Christopher Walken contributes a creepy cameo as Orson's American diplomat chum, who confirms the impression that American foreign policy, paranoid about Communism then, terrorism now, has always smacked of disastrous, insensitive and self seeking interference.
The most charismatic performance in the movie comes from Luna, the teenage star of E Tu Mama Tambien and now grown up. He plays Tomas, a former policeman, who's allocated by the studio to act as Orson's driver and who gets reluctantly drawn by Orson into the murder mystery. The character's very much a product of his time - disenchanted, morose and cynical - and it's a terrific performance.