Othello (1952) [Import]
Orson Welles' daring and visually adventurous production of William Shakespeare's classic play. Welles, one of the greatest directors ever, revered Shakespeare and was determined to bring his own versions of the Bard's work to the silver screen, though the studios resisted the idea. Without studio funding, Welles struggled for three years to make "Othello" with his own money. The film won the Grand Prize at the Cannes Film Festival and critical acclaim but was rarely seen for many years. Over $1 million dollars in restoration work was spent, including re recording the score and re creating the sound effects, as well as updating the audio to digital. "Othello" remains a testament to Welles' legendary genius.
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Top Customer Reviews
But DO NOT be deceived. Whereas the 1998 cut of Touch of Evil was "restored" using a Welles memo as guidelines, Othello was restored by presuming many things. First, dialogue was put in sync and unitelligible diaglogue was "voiced over." And second, the original score was redone, but not exactly as the original. You could say a new score was used in the "restored" film. The original cut was Welles' 1952 European version which has only ever been availible as a (OOP) 1995 Criterion LaserDisc. As Welles' daughter owns the rights to Othello, that's the 1992 "restored" version which she also helped on, it is the only one currently availible for purchase in the US.
While many casual fans will not notice or care about the little changes, don't be decieved into thinking this is "Orson's intended version." Also DO NOT be decieved into thinking this is a lost film. It was only lost in the sense that it had no distribution until the early 90's.
But "Othello" seems to fall into the category of stupidity and incompetence. It's theoretically possible there was something wrong with the DVD I received, but I doubt it. Apparently, running out of money, Welles hired a low-end post-prod house, who used their worst staff to complete this film.
Thirty five years later it was restored (not completely, unfortunately), had is musical score reconstructed and re-recorded, and it's tracks re-mixed. Unfortunately there wasn't much they could do abut the dialog, which remains muffled and often out of sync.
But to the FILM:
The score is STUNNING. The Images are STUNNING. What's left of the performances is good to excellent. Othello is Welles flexing his design muscles beyond the pyrotechnics of Kane and Touch of Evil.
"Othello" is essentially a series of perfectly composed static shots -- very much like an Eisenstien film (Alexander Nyevsky or Ivan The Terrible come immediatly to mind). Shot in a real Castle, and brilliantly photographed by at least three DOPs, I think it may be the best designed of all Welle's films. Here Welles doesn't use the long take, or mise-en-scene to get himself out of trouble: it's all editing, dramatic compositions and lighting.
And once again he shows himself to be the master.
The music is still extrodinary.Read more ›
The recent restoration of Othello brings to cinematic space the magic of another masterpiece from Orson Welles. To think that a whole master negative of this film (which won the Best film at Cannes in 1952) was lying abandoned in a New Jersey warehouse, was discovered by accident and is the reason for this print that we now have access to, is enough to send shivers down the spine of any Welles-phile.
• Mise-en-scene: Like with many of his other works involving especially Shakespeare, be prepared for Welles' licenses and personal interpretation of subject matter pertaining to Othello. Yet at the end, we are left with a feeling of deep tragedy and loss for Othello, played by Welles himself, and though we feel that Othello was quite an idiot, we at least feel that he was a very unfortunate idiot at that!
• The problem may have been that the critical scene where Iago poisons Othello's mind and fuels his suspicion is scrappy and left unexplored. This may well have had little to do with Welles' artistic choices, and more with his monetary situation at the time. Welles' penury through his European sojourn is widely known and the passion with which he would invest into his films, every penny earned through moonlighting his booming voice and above-average acting skills is legendary, and should put this in context.
• The figure behavior of Micheál MacLiammóir is utterly convincing as the detestable Iago who is consumed by jealousy and rage at being overlooked as the second-in-command. But the person to steal our hearts is Suzanne Cloutier who portrays the fair-dame Desdemona. She is every bit as dainty as we would have imagined her to be.Read more ›
I am glad that his genius is preserved and restored on this DVD. In fact, the documentary on the restoration process of this film is worth the price of the DVD itself, if you are into the "Learning Channel" type of things. This film would have been lost, and Welles perfect interpretation of the Bard would have been forever gone.
Welles, due to the "Citizen Kane" feedback, had to scrounge for money, and so this project appears jumbled at times, and here and there the lips are out of synch with the soundtrack, since the overdubbed the voices after filming. There are also some continuity problems with Welles blackface paint. But Venus de Milo is a beautiful statue, even without the arms.
This "Othello" was filmed on location, so the ambiance is perfect, with the canals, the only Italian building, and the long Italian faces that bespeak of character and pith. The cinematography is pure Gregg Toland, so you feel like you are looking at a series of high-art Renaissance paintings, and not just a blur of people speaking archaic English.
Welles does take some liberties with the script, but that is his prerogative. The story flows, and you get the feel and essence of the story, which is not as easy as it seems. I am glad that it was preserved or future generations.
Most recent customer reviews
Great, just great. Yes, some of the music one wonders if Welles would have used, but it is pure Welles. Read morePublished on June 18 2003
The restoration team that resurrected this film deserve more than our thanks. They have given us back a film by a master, working with all his considerable, improvisational wit and... Read morePublished on Nov. 3 2002 by Mark W. Scarborough
Orson Welles was a master showman, handling theatrical, radio and cinematic chores with both gusto and verve. Read morePublished on Oct. 19 2001 by GLENN WHELAN
This film blew me away! I always know what I am looking forward to in an Orson Welles film; brilliant camera angles over lapping dialogue and that masterfull voice but I was... Read morePublished on June 8 2001 by A*
Orson Welles is arguably the best director of all time, and this is certainly the best Shakespeare adaptation on film. Read morePublished on June 7 2001 by Richard Burt
It's a shame that this was a "lost" film for so long; but the care in restoring it and putting it on DVD should be a landmark for other classic films that need to move to... Read morePublished on June 21 2000
If people today remember Orson Welles at all, it is probably as the pitchman who would "sell no wine before its time. Read morePublished on June 13 2000 by David Montgomery
Read the review by Neville Blender. I couldn't add anything to his thoughts.Published on June 3 2000 by A. Evans
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