The Midnight Choker

The website of Dan Erdman

Too Much Benton


So far, my only serious complaint about the Orson Welles Centennial Symposium and Celebration, happening now at Indiana University, is that its occurrence in early May kept me from attending the Bastard Film Encounter and / or the Nitrate Picture Show, to pick just two events which are also going on within a ludicrously active ten-day period here at the threshold of the second third of 2015. Blame Welles – Orson, his mom Beatrice or his dad Richard, take your pick of as many as you like – for being born May 6, 1915, thus making this the closest available week for the symposium to be scheduled to coincide with the man’s 100th birthday. Somehow, the screenings (including most of his features, plus various shorts, rare and allegedly “lost” works), talks from the likes of Joseph McBride, James Naremore, Jonathan Rosenbaum and Patrick McGilligan and panel presentations from Welles scholars from all over the globe will have to be a balm to my sorrow.

I’ll have much more to say about this later, including an article for Belt Magazine, which I will link to when it goes live. But for now I’ll leave with this image, a detail from one of the Thomas Hart Benton murals which (for heaven’s sake) decorate the walls of the beautiful IU Cinema. Though all of the lectures in that space have been worthy of full attention, sometimes my eyes wander while my ears and brain are engaged (in my defense, there’s a lot to look at). I seem to prefer the left side of the theatre, and found myself reflexively looking at this panel on the right side of the room. I guess if I was in more of an apple-polishing mood than I am at the moment, I could try to make a case for this image as appropriately Wellesian, thanks to deep staging and a somewhat low angle (at least on the archer in the foreground, from whose vantage point the tops of the trees are as visible as a Citizen Kane ceiling). But my attention, for whatever reason, is usually found to be dwelling on the man’s right arm and hand, the way in which his fingers are holding the arrow, and the strange method by which, given the position of his limb, we’re to assume he’s drawn it from the quiver on his back. Try it yourself, it feels highly unnatural. Is this supposed to minimize noise and movement, and keep the element of surprise vis a vis his presumed targets? Is this some eccentric means of stringing the arrow?

Whatever the ostensible reason, it looks great, enough to distract me from the uniformly excellent work being presented on the stage. Details may be lost in my crummy picture; I recommend that you zoom in for a closer look or, better still, come to Bloomington and see for yourself.


This entry was posted on May 2, 2015 by in Festival Reports.
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