Many of Orson Welles' films tackle such Big Themes as the Nature of Truth (Citizen Kane) or the Corruption of Justice (Touch of Evil). The delightful half-hour film The Fountain of Youth -- filmed as a TV pilot in 1956 -- addresses "the remorseful erasures of time" in a parable of Aging. Frosty scientist Dan Tobin loses his showgirl girlfriend (Joi Lansing) to a smug tennis pro (Rick Jason). His revenge is to gift them with a dose for one person, and one person only, of his newly discovered elixir of eternal youth. The short is distinguished by Welles' inventive staging, as still photos come to life or a dimming of lights transports characters from one scene to another. The Great Man himself weaves in and out of the action, a sardonic puppeteer, his velvety voice caressing his characters as they all fail morally. The acidic Tobin, a Clifton Webb type burning with Lucifer's pride, and Lansing -- the blonde who hears ticking in her head in the opening scene of Touch of Evil -- are particularly good, mismatched from the start. The Fine Arts' screening of this film, with Welles' black comedy version of Kafka's The Trial, may be the Bay Area theatrical premiere of this little gem.
The Fountain of Youth screens with The Trial Sunday through Saturday, June 6-12, at 7:15 p.m. (Saturday and Sunday matinees at 4:30 p.m.) at the Fine Arts Cinema, 2451 Shattuck (at Haste), Berkeley. Admission is $7; call (510) 848-1143.