The Trial | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe


The Trial

Though in certain respects debatable as an adaptation of the Franz Kafka novel, Orson Welles's nightmarish, labyrinthine expressionist comedy of 1962--shot mainly in Paris's abandoned Gare d'Orsay and various locations in Zagreb and Rome after he had to abandon his plan to use sets--remains his creepiest and most disturbing work, and it's been a lot more influential than people usually admit. (Scorsese's After Hours, for example, is deeply indebted to it, and arguably the two costume store sequences in Eyes Wide Shut are as well.) Anthony Perkins gives a somewhat adolescent temper to Joseph K, an ambitious corporate bureaucrat mysteriously brought to court for an unspecified crime. Among the predatory females who pursue him are Jeanne Moreau, Romy Schneider, and Elsa Martinelli; Welles himself fills in as the hero's tyrannical lawyer, and Welles regular Akim Tamiroff is his usual remarkable self as one of the lawyer's oldest clients. Welles adroitly captures the experience of an unsettling and slightly hysterical dream throughout, and the dovetailing locations, disembodied sound, and dizzying shifts of scale add to the overall disorientation. A newly restored 35-millimeter print will be shown, and given the impact of screen size on what Welles is doing, you can't claim to have seen this if you've watched it only on video. Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Friday, February 25, 6:00 and 8:15; Saturday, February 26, 4:00, 6:15, and 8:30; and Sunday, February 27, 3:30 and 6:00; 312-443-3737.

--Jonathan Rosenbaum

Add a comment