DVD Review: Mark Cousins’ THE EYES OF ORSON WELLES Is An Intimate Love Letter To The Great Filmmaker

4.5 out of 5 stars

Poetic, hypnotic and passionate, The Eyes Of Orson Welles is a beautifully realised visual love letter to the great filmmaker. Writer-director-narrator Mark Cousins takes us on a personal journey into the world of Orson Welles by using the Citizen Kane director’s own artwork as a stepping-off point. Cousins uses this art as a way of tapping-into Welles’ psyche, offering glimpses of reoccurring themes and motifs that tie his film-work and life together. 

Not content with being a gifted actor, filmmaker and raconteur, Welles was also a prolific artist, painting and sketching hundreds of images in his lifetime. Cousins lets us see a fraction of these beautifully crafted artworks as he weaves his own personal narrative into Welles’ life. Broken into five sections, The Eyes Of Orson Welles is epistolary in nature, taking the form of an imaginary letter which Cousins is writing to Welles. 

The Eyes Of Orson Welles draws you into Cousins world and it lets you know as much about the Irish-born filmmaker as it does Welles. Cousins tracks Welles’ movements across space and time, tapping into history, technology and political events to create a unique film which will give the viewer a whole new appreciation of Welles. 

Cousins repeatedly returns to a candid photograph of a young Welles, often closing-in on the image, letting viewers gaze into the eyes of Orson Welles. We’re able to let our own emotions and feelings merge with Cousins’, as if we’re all in this together, passionate film lovers caught in the slipstream of Welles’ personality and genius. It’s a clever technique, and one which Welles’ himself would likely have enjoyed. After all, he was as much a showman as he was an artist, and he loved to play with audiences and toy with convention. A true maverick, Orson Welles loved to break walls and push boundaries and that’s exactly what Mark Cousins does with this free-flowing film. This is a portrait of a great filmmaker by a director who not only knows and appreciates his subject, but also the craft of cinema. 

Special Features 

We’re given even more insight into Orson Welles and Mark Cousins with the DVD extras of The Eyes Of Orson Welles. The disc comes with a great BFI Southbank Q&A with Cousins, however the best features are The Boots of Orson Welles (which sees Cousins purchase a pair of Welles’ boots in an internet auction) and The Eyes of Orson Welles – Images From My Phone Camera.