No Rosebud for Welles: ‘Sartre and Borges on Welles’ (2014)

From the Paris Review, Dan Piepenbring looks at one of Orson Welles’ most famous and most criticised films, Citizen Kane, and the theorists who condemned the film. View the article, Sartre and Borges on Welles, published August 12, 2014.



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2 responses to “No Rosebud for Welles: ‘Sartre and Borges on Welles’ (2014)

  1. Patrick Lyons


    Sartre, for all his worth, could obviously be a pretentious and elitist twat.  It’s interesting that he felt driven to “review” the film – four years after it was released.  That’s significant, I think, but I don’t know why.  Did he detest Welles?  Did he crave his own “Rosebud”?  Did he need the money?  So many possibilities.

    Borges seems to be critical of the very nature of art (good, bad or indifferent) – and that is that it should communicate.  His commentary makes it clear the film communicates on two levels – one of the qualities that made Shakespeare (or whoever wrote those works) appeal to the masses as well as the “elite”.

    I don’t know enough about Sartre or Borges to judge what sort of agenda either of them might have been running.

    Dad xx


    • Sartre was one of many who criticised the film without having seen it. Guido Aristarco, who was a Marxist, also criticised the film without even seeing it. In Sartre’s case it can be seen as elitism, but others seemed to just misinterpret the film. The problem is that although it is his most well-known film, it is not his best, and that is quite often the case with famous writers/directors, whose more accessible works obviously tend to be their most popular (as was the case with Twain, Dickens, Stein, etc.). There will always be tension between appealing to the masses (or dimwits, as Borges calls them) and appealing to the informed elite who would be aware of certain subtle connections to other authors/films, etc. Charles Jencks called this ‘double coding.’ Borges is at least mapping out his criticism well and gives credit where credit it is due.

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