Orson Welles made what many consider to be the best movie ever—at the age of 26. For many of us, that is a terrifying wake-up call, but the truth is that filmmakers as revolutionary as Welles only come along once every couple of generations. To this day, Welles still may not have met an equal; in 2002, he was named the greatest director of all time by the British Film Institute.

Fandor’s latest video essay, compiled by Phillip Brubaker, goes in depth to examine a few of the techniques Welles mastered that advanced the medium of film.

While Welles made no less than 13 films in his illustrious career, Brubaker’s essay focuses on his studio films set in the 20th century: Citizen Kane, The Magnificent Ambersons, The Stranger, The Lady From Shanghai, and Touch of Evil.

Welles provided audiences with dazzling visuals, the likes of which they’d never seen before. His beautiful shots of smoke and mirrors and his mastery of light and shadow brought noir cinematography to the mainstream. Welles also pioneered the use of deep focus, a tactic in which all subjects of the frame are in perfect clarity. His focus on expressive faces brought a dramatic, theatrical quality to his pictures. 

Perhaps his most innovative trademark, however, was his craftiness with a moving camera. What set his camera movement apart from other directors at the time was the level of complexity he was able to achieve while keeping everything in focus. As Brubaker points out, “Under Welles’ direction, the camera anticipates character movement, and keeps them at the center of the action.”

And, of course, Welles wasn’t simply content with directing his films; he acted in many of them, as well. In fact, he often saved the meatiest roles for himself.

Source: Fandor