Welles still runs deep

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM REVIEWS - DON­ALD CLARKE

CHIMES AT MID­NIGHT Di­rected by Or­son Welles. Star­ring Or­son Welles, Keith Bax­ter, John Giel­gud, Jeanne Moreau, Mar­garet Ruther­ford, Ma­rina Vlady. Club, IFI, Dublin, 119 min

You can’t talk about Or­son Welles with­out us­ing su­perla­tives. This Welles film was the great­est this or that. This other Welles film was the most im­pres­sive what­ever-you-like. Let us con­tinue the tra­di­tion by nam­ing Chimes at Mid­night as the best ever Shake­speare movie. To avoid con­fu­sion, we’re in­clud­ing only those that speak the ac­tual text. So, no Ran, Throne of Blood or (oh, why not?) 10 Things I Hate About You.

The trick, of course, is to show the viewer you have a pur­pose in trans­lat­ing the play into this medium. Welles had ear­lier made some­thing cin­e­matic of Mac­beth and Othello, but his ver­sion of Fal­staff’s story from Henry IV Parts 1 and 2 had greater co­he­sion, greater breadth and re­vealed less ev­i­dence of its typ­i­cally trou­bled birth in the fi­nal prod­uct.

Welles was still just about in his 40s when he made the film, but years of stress and overindul­gence had al­ready turned him into a suit­able can­di­date for the great swollen rogue of English lit­er­a­ture. Welles con­sid­ered Fal­staff Shake- speare’s great­est cre­ation and there is some­thing in that. No­body else in the oeu­vre is al­lowed to spout quite so much wis­dom couched as quite so much baloney. No­body else has such a poignant end. Notwith­stand­ing Iago’s mis­chief, Fal­staff steals the play from the ti­tle char­ac­ter like no­body else in English lit­er­a­ture.

Ed­mond Richard, later to do ac­claimed work with Buñuel, shot the film in gor­geous dis­tressed black and white over two dif­fi­cult years in Spain. The var­i­ous sup­port­ing play­ers – John Giel­gud is won­der­fully stoic as Henry IV; Mar­garet Ruther­ford is the de­fin­i­tive Mis­tress Quickly – were flown in to do their bit and then flown out while the film was prac­ti­cally still in the cam­era. Welles laughed that vir­tu­ally ev­ery shot from be­hind was of a stand in.

Still, it’s hard to imag­ine how it could have worked out bet­ter. Oh, and it’s also Welles’s sec­ond best film.

Or­son Welles as Fal­staff

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.