Chimes at Midnight

Chimes at Midnight

Director: Orson Welles, John Gielgud, Jeanne Moreau, Norman Rodway

Cast: Orson Welles, John Gielgud, Jeanne Moreau, Norman Rodway

     
 

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The legendary Shakespearean character Sir John Falstaff, the notoriously drunken, obese, and yet charming companion of the young Henry V, steps up from supporting character in several plays to the central focus of Orson Welles' Chimes at Midnight, considered by many critics the best of the director's acclaimed Shakespeare films. The script borrows scenes from

Overview

The legendary Shakespearean character Sir John Falstaff, the notoriously drunken, obese, and yet charming companion of the young Henry V, steps up from supporting character in several plays to the central focus of Orson Welles' Chimes at Midnight, considered by many critics the best of the director's acclaimed Shakespeare films. The script borrows scenes from several plays, but draws most heavily on the two parts of Henry IV, focusing on the shifting relationship between Falstaff and Prince Hal. Beginning as the prince's companion in debauchery and idleness, the corpulent jokester finds himself falling out of favor as the prince comes to terms with the importance of his destiny as England's future leader. While Falstaff's ample wit is still much in evidence, the film places greater emphasis on the tragic character beneath all the joviality, with Welles perfectly embodying this mixture of spiritually youthful prankster and sad adult. While his towering performance naturally takes center stage, the other cast members are also superb. The film's visual elements are also strong, with Welles' attention to composition matching his sensitivity to character. There are technical imperfections due to the film's extremely limited budget, including an inconsistent soundtrack, but they are unable to overshadow the film's many achievements.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Dan Jardine
William Shakespeare's history plays, often overlooked by filmmakers, provide the basis of Orson Welles' adaptation of several of the Bard's works, including Henry IV, Parts 1 and 2, Henry V, Richard III, and The Merry Wives of Windsor. That's right: Welles condenses five of Shakespeare's great plays into less than two hours. The one character uniting all these works is the loquacious, rambunctious, drunken Falstaff, played by Welles himself. Images of quiet melancholy and decay give way to a fiery film, full of the fury of betrayal as Falstaff's influence on young Prince Hal threatens the integrity of the monarchy. Welles fearlessly inverts the Shakespearean emphasis on Henry's rise to power, instead encouraging us to look at the world from the perspective of those he left behind in his climb to the top. The world of Falstaff is wooden, symbolized by his preference for inns, while the world of Hal is stone, focused on images of the castle. The brutal human cost of Henry's drive for power makes him an image of 20th century tyrants; and Welles may also be examining his own treatment at the hands of Hollywood studio executives, whom he felt had just as ruthlessly tossed him aside. As Welles spent almost all of his career operating outside the studio system, he was forced to produce films for a fraction of the cost of the typical studio film. Amazingly, he makes the castle sets and battle scenes look like they belong in a much more expensive epic, and, particularly in the Battle of Shrewsbury, he creates action sequences as good as any ever put on film. Welles does not abandon his long-standing interest in deep-focus cinematography, and the images are stunning. Sadly, the lack of money results in a muddled soundtrack, in which characters' words are often indecipherable. As words are Shakespeare's magical ingredient, that flaw tempers the film's impact.

Product Details

Release Date:
08/30/2016
UPC:
0715515184311
Original Release:
1966
Rating:
NR
Source:
Criterion
Region Code:
A
Presentation:
[Wide Screen]
Time:
1:56:00
Sales rank:
1,983

Special Features

New high-definition digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack; Audio Commentary featuring film scholar James Naremore, author of The Magic World of Orson Welles; New Interview with actor Keith Baxter; New Interview with Director Orson Welle's daughter Beatrice Welles , who appeared in the film at age nine; New interview with actor and Welles biographer Simon Callow; New interview with film historian Joseph McBride, author of What Ever Happened to Orson Welles? Interview with Welles while at work editing the film, from a 1965 episode of The Merv Griffin Show; Trailer; Plus: An essay by film scholar Michael Anderegg

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Orson Welles Sir John (Jack) Falstaff
John Gielgud Henry IV of England
Jeanne Moreau Doll Tearsheet
Norman Rodway Henry Percy, "Hotspur"
Keith Baxter Prince Hal
Margaret Rutherford Hostess Quickly
Marina Vlady Kate Percy
Alan Webb Shallow
Walter Chiari Mr. Silence
Patrick Bedford Bardolph
Charles Farrell Actor
Andrew Faulds Westmoreland
Julio Pena Actor
Keith Pyott Actor
Jeremy Rowe Prince John
Beatrice Welles Falstaff's Page
Michael Aldridge Pistol
Tony Beckley Poins
José Nieto Northumberland
Ingrid Pitt Actor
Fernando Rey Worcester
Ralph Richardson Narrator

Technical Credits
Orson Welles Director,Screenwriter
Jose Antonio de la Guerra Art Director
Carlo Franci Musical Direction/Supervision
Angelo Francesco Lavagnino Score Composer
Cornejo Madrid Costumes/Costume Designer
Fritz Muller Editor
Emiliano Piedra Producer
Gustavo Quintana Production Designer
Edmond Richard Cinematographer

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