Confidential Report is at once a fascinating (inevitably) and dismaying effort, frequently suggestive of self-parody; and indeed, in scenario and technique, it is an echo of Kane and that film’s bravura style. Instead of newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane, here is Gregory Arkadin, shadow figure, arch-capitalist, graduate of a Polish ‘white slave’ ring, but whose latter-day power and riches are shrouded.
Instead of Kane’s Xanadu, Arkadin has a castle in Spain. Instead of inanimate ‘Rosebud,’ there is a daughter (Welles’ wife, Paola Mori), pretty, vital and overprotected.
The visual trickery in Report, albeit often irrelevant, is almost always fascinating just because it’s a Welles orchestration, filling the screen with arresting oddment, with delicious detail with, in short, excitement.
Welles’ story is a parable, and verbalized as such by Arkadin at one point. It concerns a scorpion and a frog, and the moral is that character is immutable and thus logical even when seemingly illogical.
Told in flashback, Arkadin is an amnesiac and hires a smalltime Yank smuggler to trace his past. His ulterior purpose is to turn up, and eradicate, old nefarious associates who conceivably might disclose the truth about him to his daughter. The American goes to work, and the murders follow.
Engaging meller it may be, but missing the incisive delineation that marked Kane. The melange of darting narrative simply gets the upper hand a case of visual virtuosity overwhelming the Arkadin parable.