Thursday, May 31, 2012

440. Campanadas a medianoche/Chimes at Midnight (1965)

Running Time: 111 minutes
Directed By: Orson Welles
Written By: Orson Welles from plays of William Shakespeare and book by Raphael Holinshed
Main Cast: Orson Welles, Keith Baxter, John Gielgud, Jeanne Moreau, Margaret Rutherford


Well what do you know - I was actually able to keep "Welles Week" confined to just one week, instead of the normal run over that I usually get into, with other director themed weeks. However, little did I know that the final act of "Welles Week" would be spoken in gibberish.

I'm going to level with you guys, I'm going to have to plead ignorance on this one. I hadn't a clue what was going on in "Chimes at Midnight", listening to nearly indecipherable language and trying my best to make heads or tails out of what was going on. Even if there was a gun to my head right this minute, I'd still be hard pressed to relay to you the details of this picture. All I can really tell you is that it follows a recurring Shakespeare character named Sir John Falstaff and the film takes excerpts from several Shakespeare plays to put together the life of this oafish character, played by Orson Welles, still overweight and losing his acting skills in his later years. The film tells of his companionship with Prince Henry or Hal (Baxter), as he's sometimes referred to and is the son of King Henry IV (Gielgud). I mean, that's all I can really tell you. I could tell you that there is a battle sequence, but I couldn't tell you why the battle took place. I could tell you that there is a robbery that Falstaff commits, early on in the picture and it seems to have implications throughout the film, but I'm really not sure what the implications were. I just could barely understand what was being said, what was going on or why it was all happening.

I can talk about the films of Sergei Eisenstein or Sergei Parajanov being extremely difficult to get through, but I'd kill for one of their films over a film based on Shakespeare, filled with it's "thou's" and "thee's", among other words that I'm unfamiliar with from the Shakespearian language. The film was absolutely dreadful and I'd go so far as to call it possibly the worst film I've watched for THE BOOK thus far. I just could not wait for it to be over. I couldn't stop my mind form wandering, wanting this film to end so that I could move on to better movies. And I still cannot believe that the lead in this and the lead in "The Lady from Shanghai" are the same man. It's not just that Welles' appearance has drastically changed, but it's also the fact that he lost his harmonious voice, his powerful tone. Instead it's been replaced by a slurring, snarling, raspy voice that just doesn't hold the same mystique as it did in his younger days.

RATING: 1/10  If ever there was a time to call it a 0.5/10, this would have been the one. However, I draw the line at '1', so, without a doubt, '1' it shall be.



Despite only giving positive praise to three of his five directed films (if you count "Citizen Kane", which I gave a '7' to way back when) and never giving his films any rating higher than a '9', I still consider Welles to be a fine filmmaker. You really got the feeling when you watched his work that he was a man who was very passionate about his art. He knew the movie business, he knew what would work and what wouldn't, he knew how to orchestrate innovative shots and make them translate well to the screen. Hell, he knew it all when it came to making motion pictures. In fact, I would be surprised if old Orson hasn't done a few turns in his grave, as he looks on from beyond at modern Hollywood and the insufferable tripe that is being churned out on a week to week basis. I didn't like all of his films and in fact, I down right hated some of them, but the fact is, is that I really enjoyed watching him work. I didn't always agree with or like the final product, but it was a pleasure to see this master make his living.

RANKING WELLES (directed films only)
1. The Stranger
2. The Lady from Shanghai
3. Citizen Kane
4. The Magnificent Ambersons
5. probably everything else he ever did, including the failed attempt at a frozen peas radio commercial
6. Chimes at Midnight

COMING SOON: (probably in this exact order)
Gaslight (1944 - George Cukor)
Into the Wild (2007 - Sean Penn)
Rushmore (1998 - Wes Anderson)
The Royal Tenenbaums (2001 - Wes Anderson)

May 31, 2012  12:31am

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