The Independent Weekly's film articles are typically penetrating and lucid. But David Fellerath's review of two books on Orson Welles falls into the quicksand of cliches surrounding the director ("Blowing Smoke," Feb. 16). Mr. Fellerath confronts the conventional view of Welles' life as "a tragic waste," only to fall into the trap of identifying Welles with his role of Charles Foster Kane. Having examined archives in the U.S. and Europe, I am writing a book that reconceives his career.
Unlike the tyrannical Kane, Welles did not become a sterile collector but a dynamic creator throughout the mass media, including in TV. Welles was a mythmaker and media magician. Yet his works overturn the myths of material success and progress and expose the spells of radio, newsreels and film editing. (How he would have delighted in and demystified CGI.) Welles' career rests on the faith that the mass media can combine, and audiences embrace, the best of elite and popular art. This faith was formed in his youth, when Welles directed Julius Caesar, The War of the Worlds and Citizen Kane, acclaimed and socially critical productions at the centers of American culture. This faith prompted his later performances of Shakespeare on TV talk shows and his commercials and guest star roles to support his work in Hollywood, rather than going independent.
Welles' frustration and isolation remain the characteristics of his caricature. But this image fails to explain his complexity as a man and compelling influence as an artist. That he took joy in new forms of creativity until his death, that his understanding of people and media made him a prized collaborator (particularly for actors), and that he had a lifelong dedication to a vital and keen mass culture, restores some color to his memory.
Gabriel M. Paletz
As a local resident, I read with great interest your coverage of the debate in Washington about President George W. Bush's request for additional funds to pay for the war in Iraq. Although I opposed the war in Iraq when it began, I believe that we now have an obligation to the Iraqi people to support and assist them throughout the restabilization of their country and their government. However, this obligation does not justify the U.S. establishing a permanent military presence in Iraq. I believe that Congress has an opportunity in this debate to take an important step forward, refocusing our strategy in Iraq away from a discussion about troops' strengths and weapons and toward a discussion about how to return sovereignty to the Iraqi people and withdraw U.S. troops and bases.
I believe our members of Congress should add a non-binding, sense of the Congress resolution to the president's request for additional funding for the war in Iraq that clarifies U.S. policy by stating "it is the policy of the United States to withdraw all military troops and bases from Iraq."
Virtually all U.S. elected officials agree that Iraqis would be reassured to hear an official declaration to this effect, that a new Iraqi government would welcome such a declaration, and that the declaration would help to undercut the growing insurgency in Iraq.