The World of Franklin and Jefferson

Film Review by Dean Duncan May 26, 2015

That’s more like it. This is for kids, sort of, or for any reasonably intelligent, properly curious person wanting to find out about an extremely important, eminently interesting subject. Since this is the subject, and since that is the audience, no indignities or pandering are required. Sit down, and we’ll serve you sufficiently. It’s Orson Welles!  Or Orson Welles’ voice, at least! Have you noticed how we keep saying how full and artful this kind of film can be? It’s tempting to jump to a pretty standard conclusion, and assume that Welles is just slumming in order to pick up a cheque in order to keep trying to direct a picture that he’ll then never finish or release. (There’s a story or two behind that sentence!)

That would be the wrong conclusion. Their subjects are different, and certainly the setting or context in which the films are viewed and absorbed. But I’m suddenly thinking about 1941. Can you think of another director that can pick and frame and assemble objects and artifacts as well as this pair? I can! Reenactments even!

This was for an exhibit, right? It’s not the film’s fault, just like you don’t fault film music when it sounds a bit thin all by itself. But this important and interesting subject, and these two infinite individuals, are given slightly short shrift. More, please! (Also, haven’t we decided the Franklin and Jefferson are much less related, less profitably compared than Jefferson and Adams?) The more that I’m missing was doubtless available in the galleries next door. So some informational films are the very best that a film can be. Some are not, at the same time that they are absolutely doing what can reasonably be required of them.