The Hearts of Age (Orson Welles & William Vance / U.S., 1934):

A fascination with "the mortal tedium of immortality" is the sole link to Cocteau, despite Orson Welles’s own description of this eight-minute lark as a lampoon of Le Sang d’un Poète. The old woman (Virginia Nicholson, with powdered wig and drawn-on wrinkles) straddles the rooftop bell, "endlessly rocking" (Griffith?); the slave downstairs (Paul Edgerton), a burnt-cork Harpo Marx, tugs at the rope and makes the bell (and the mistress) vibrate. Death (Welles) is a leprechauny dandy perpetually descending staircases and doffing his top hat. The trick-or-treat arcana includes tombstones and atomized sunlight, much satirical material is drawn from Caligari, Nosferatu, Ménilmontant and Vampyr. Citizen Kane (spinning globe), The Magnificent Ambersons (expiring Americana) and Mr. Arkadin (ungluing make-up) are detectable; the hanging bodies in Chimes at Midnight are here stick-figures in a drawing, Bannister in The Lady from Shanghai is modeled on the glance William Nance gives the camera. Cinema transforms and devours: Welles pounds a piano, hears a sour note, and lifts the lid to reveal the woman’s corpse. The filmmaker as ringmaster, conjurer, and Grim Reaper, present in front of and behind the screen. "Sunday-afternoon fun out on the lawn" (Welles to Peter Bogdanovich). In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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