Planned as an episode of his mid-'50s television series Around the World With Orson Welles, The Dominici Affair proves that Orson Welles was just as innovative a television director as he was a filmmaker and radio artist. Welles left the film unfinished, leaving only a rough cut in a vault in France. This documentary includes a reconstruction of it based on his notes, as well as an examination of his working methods, some background on the case, and recollections by people associated with the production. The Dominici Affair itself was France's most celebrated postwar murder case. An English couple and their young daughter were shot in cold blood by the side of a road where they had stopped for the night while traveling through the Basque region of France. An elderly shepherd, Gaston Dominici, was arrested and convicted of the crime. The evidence clearly pointed to him as the killer, but he protested his innocence to the end. He was sentenced to death, but had his sentence commuted to life in prison, and eventually was released to end his life in an old folks home. Welles was fascinated both by the case and by France's little-known Basque subculture, and he conveyed his fascination by adapting cinematic techniques to news reporting in ways that hadn't been tried before. He was one of the first to use synchronous sound in the field, which allowed him to conduct interviews at locations important to the case, and give them an immediacy that newsreels couldn't approach. Amazingly enough, he also filmed all his reaction shots for the whole Around the World series in one session, then cut them into each episode. These techniques have become commonplace in contemporary television news magazines, so The Dominici Affair doesn't appear at first glance to be as revolutionary as it actually was, but it nonetheless shines light on yet another aspect of Welles' seemingly limitless genius.
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