Mr. Arkadin



Mr. Arkadin is the mysterious person who the Guy Behind The Desk keeps informed of the Stranger's movements. In the Dance Dream Nova Holland tells the Stranger that Mr. Arkadin "owned the house", but whether that meant the Skeleton Saloon or the real Manatee Mansion is unclear.

Mr. Arkadin is a French-Spanish-Swiss coproduction film written and directed by Orson Welles. Its history is quite convoluted; the story was based on several episodes of the radio series The Lives of Harry Lime, which in turn was based on the character Welles portrayed in The Third Man. In addition, several different versions of the film were released. Jonathan Rosenbaum's essay "The Seven Arkadins" is an attempt to detail the different versions including the novel and radio play. Adding to the confusion is a novel of the same title that was credited to Welles; Welles claimed the book was only ghostwritten with Maurice Bessy. In 1982 Welles described it as the 'biggest disaster' of his life, due to him losing creative control of the film.

Released in some parts of Europe as Confidential Report, this film shares themes and stylistic devices with The Third Man. Like many of Welles' other films, Mr. Arkadin was heavily edited without his input. The Criterion Collection has a 3 DVD box set which includes three separate versions of Mr. Arkadin including a comprehensive re-edit that combines material taken from all the known versions of the film. Included are three of the Harry Lime radio plays Welles reportedly wrote and based the screenplay on, as well as the complete novel. The Criterion release also includes commentary tracks from Welles film scholars Jonathan Rosenbaum and James Naremore.

Small time smuggler Guy Van Stratten is at the scene of a murder, and the dying man whispers two names that he claims are very valuable, one of which is Gregory Arkadin. Using this small bit of information and lots of bluffing, Van Stratten manages to meet the apparent multi-millionaire business magnate and socialite Arkadin, and Arkadin then hires Van Stratten to research his own past, of which he claims to have no memory before 1927.

Traveling across the world, Van Stratten pieces together Arkadin's past from the few remaining people who knew Arkadin as a gangster in post-WWI Europe, but in each case the individuals he speaks to end up dead. Van Stratten ultimately discovers Arkadin's amnesia was a ruse and that his true purpose was to locate anyone who could still identify Arkadin with his criminal past, so that Arkadin could have them killed. Arkadin is motivated by the need to keep his past a secret from his daughter, and in the film's climax, he and Van Stratten each race to Spain to see her, with disastrous consequences.

Film reviewer Dan Schneider wrote, of the film's place in the Welles' canon:

"This film may be the most intrinsically Wellesian of all his works, combining the story unspooling of Citizen Kane, the post-war shadiness of The Stranger and The Third Man, the visual oddities of The Lady from Shanghai — starting with the pilotless airplane that opens the film, the soliloquizing of his Shakespearean films, the later ruthless characterizations of Touch of Evil, and the decayed world feel of The Trial…"

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