Chimes at Midnight

May be the greatest Shakespearean film ever made, bar none.

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Chimes at Midnight

The crowning achievement of Orson Welles’s later film career, Chimes at Midnight returns to the screen after being unavailable for decades. This brilliantly crafted Shakespeare adaptation was the culmination of Welles’s lifelong obsession with the Bard’s ultimate rapscallion, Sir John Falstaff, the loyal, often soused childhood friend to King Henry IV’s wayward son Prince Hal. Appearing in several plays as a comic supporting figure, Falstaff is here the main event: a robustly funny and ultimately tragic screen antihero played by Welles with towering, lumbering grace. Integrating elements from both Henry IV plays as well as Richard II, Henry V, and The Merry Wives of Windsor, Welles created an unorthodox Shakespeare film that is also a gritty period piece, which he called “a lament . . . for the death of Merrie England.” Poetic, philosophical, and visceral—with a kinetic centerpiece battle sequence as impressive as anything Welles ever directed—Chimes at Midnight is as monumental as the figure at its center.

“If I wanted to get into heaven on the basis of one movie, that’s the one I would offer up. I think it’s because it is, to me, the least flawed . . . I succeeded more completely, in my view, with that than with anything else.” —ORSON WELLES

“He has directed a sequence, the Battle of Shrewsbury, which is unlike anything he has ever done, indeed unlike any battle ever done on the screen before. It ranks with the best of Griffith, John Ford, Eisenstein, Kurosawa—that is, with the best ever done.” —PAULINE KAEL

Genre
Culture Vulture, Comedy, Drama
Runtime
115
Language
English
Director
Orson Welles
Cast
Orson Welles, Jeanne Moreau, Margaret Rutherford, Fernando Rey, John Gielgud, Marina Vlady, Walter Chiari, Michael Aldridge, Alan Webb, Keith Baxter, Tony Beckley, Norman Rodway
FEATURED REVIEW
Chris Nashawaty, Entertainment Weekly

Thanks to an astonishingly crisp restoration, Orson Welles’ 1965 Shakespearean masterpiece can now be appreciated by anyone who thought his best days behind the camera ended with Touch of Evil. Welles gives a mammoth performance (in every sense of the word) as the Bard’s tragic fool Falstaff, while ...

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