Orson Welles was a little preoccupied with himself, and this is very much his vehicle, but Around the World with Orson Welles — a series of travelogues he made in 1955 — is jolly entertaining. The style of the series, with off-the-cuff presentation and no attempt at hiding the film-making process, has been copied in practically every travel programme since, especially the ones featuring gallivanting chefs. (RIP dear Keith Floyd.)
Orson wrote, directed and presented this fascinating series for broadcast on British TV. He offers idiosyncratic insights into the places he visits, with flashes of the likes of Jean Cocteau and Simone de Beauvoir along the way. Perhaps the most interesting episode is his revisit to Vienna and the locations of The Third Man. The episode was thought to be lost for a while.
Thanks heavens for the BFI who released the series in Blu-ray format.
Progress or Civilisation?
Orson makes some interesting observations visiting the Basque country in the first episode of the series.
Musing on the benefits of travel, he says we should appreciate the best aspects of countries, not seek to compare and criticise: 'If an English boy, for example, has a nice life for two or three years in Tuscany in Italy he isn't betraying his English heritage.'
Orson thought that the Basques had not been softened by a 'constant movement to easier living by means of the machine.' He says in the programme that he doesn't think that 'progress and civilisation go together particularly.' Underlining the contentiousness of this statement, he goes on to say: 'I know that's a dangerous thing to say, but I happen to believe it.'
Whatever would he have made of people living life almost entirely engaged by the insidious virtual distractions of their smart phones? Tweet me your thoughts!