Thursday, August 11, 2016

Welles' Bard Trilogy (Macbeth, Othello, Chimes at Midnight)

During a decades spanning period of self-imposed Hollywood exile that only saw his return to film Touch of Evil, Orson Welles crafted three Shakespearean adaptations. Having garnered a reputation, producers were often hesitant to work with him, and money was often scant. Filming on the fly over what sometimes amounted to years, these films would often suffer from sound or continuity but are as stylish and dramatically satisfying as anything the maverick director ever created.

Macbeth (1948)
Welles's 1936 stage adaptation of the Scottish play with an all black cast gained mass acclaim. Here, while sublimely starring in the lead role he creates a haunting, atmospheric aura on austere sets.
*** 1/2 out of ****

Othello (1952)
Othello is roughly cobbled together and even after a 1992 restoration, it looks very rugged. Still the camerawork is impeccable and the treatment is extremely powerful, again especially in Welles' performance
*** 1/2 out of ****

Chimes at Midnight (1965)

Chimes at Midnight is probably the best regarded of these works, and one that existed in obscurity until only recently. Depicting the friendship between Falstaff and Henry IV, the film is bold, bawdy, dramatic, laugh out loud funny, and affecting as it demonstrates Welles in full force as actor and director.
*** 1/2 out of ****