The film is fast and clever, rich with visual and verbal wit and beautifully shot, appearing to run all over the world, even though it's doubtful Welles actually had the budget or free hand to do what it looks like is being done. "Kane" was the first and only film he ever had complete control over. Afterward his work was constantly thwarted. "Arkadin" may have gotten it the worst. Welles thought so: "More completely than any other picture of mine has been hurt by anybody, 'Arkadin' was destroyed," he told his biographer Barbara Leaming. "Arkadin" is certainly damaged, with a bad soundtrack and obvious amputated scenes, among other flaws. But the light of genius shines through the rubble just the same.
There is much evidence that Herman Mankiewicz deserves equal billing with Welles for writing "Kane." But some would go further and give him all, in an attempt to undermine the cult of the auteur. "Arkadin" smashes any remnants of such a proposition. From the beautifully illogical camera angles to the surprising epigrams ("After 20,000 years, murder is still a business that's mainly in the hands of amateurs"), the film dances and glides on that same signature originality that propels all of Welles' best work. No one could put "Kane" next to "Arkadin" and not recognize they were made by the same person. That the latter movie is so flawed might be in our best interest. In perfect condition, it would give us a lot of trouble with our top 10 lists. S
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