Where The Long Tail Ends

http://wherethelongtailends.com/archives/chimes-at-midnight I don’t think Matt is in the habit of blogging about Shakespeare, but after a post like the above I wish he was.  After admitting that he prefers adaptations to originals (“Why watch King Lear when you can watch Ran instead?  Or read Dream when Gaiman’s Sandman beckons me?”), he confesses that his initial introduction to Shakespeare is, in fact, the Taming Of The Shrew episode from Moonlighting (everybody remember that show?) So when he starts in on his praising review of Chimes at Midnight, I was hooked.  As I mentioned previously, I had a copy of the film on my iPod but never watched it and eventually let it get deleted.  Well now I want to see it again.  You’d think it difficult to review a film like this.  Not only is it Welles’ own version of the several Henry plays (so it’s not like you can say “Oh, ok, I know this play…”), it is considered by some (Rosenbaum among them) to be one of the greatest Shakespearean performances ever put on film.  None of that scares Matt away.  His review is a well balanced combination of professional movie reviewer (noting particular directorial choices and camera shots he likes), just enough story telling to not give anything away, and praise for Welles’ Falstaff, all while keeping the same tone as the guy who just a minute ago was singing the praises of Bruce Willis as Petruchio.  The final “Perhaps its time I give ‘ol Billy another try,” seems to sum up just how much Matt liked the film. I can’t wait to see it.

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3 thoughts on “Where The Long Tail Ends

  1. Thanks very much for the kind words on my review. I wasn’t quite sure what I was getting into when I watched the film and I must say I enjoyed it far more then I ever imagined I would.

    It certainly was a far better way to present “authentic” Shakespeare to a relative neophyte like myself then the droll readings I had to do back in High School.

    It will take some effort for fans to track down a copy of the film, and the quality of the DVD transfer is fairly poor, but the film is worth every bit of time and effort that will be required.

  2. I know this is almost heresy, but I view all of the Welles Shakespeare movies (Macbeth, Othello, Chimes) more as “interesting failures” than as masterpieces: illuminated by flashes of brilliance, but falling down when taken as a whole. Chimes is certainly the best of the lot, the one that comes closest to success, and the one with the greatest number of those flashes. (If there’s one thing that beats Gielgud as the King, it’s Welles sending up Gielgud’s performance.)

    But the fact is, film buffs cut a _LOT_ of slack for Welles’ deficicencies. I hate to seem churlish, but brilliant visuals are not the entire product! Sound is a part of a movie, and the quality of sound and its integration with the visuals are in important factor in judging the overall quality of a movie. When we hear characters talking but their lips are as still as any ventriloquist, or when Orson has plainly dubbed two or three characters in a scene himself, it just looks amateurish.

    And, to touch back on those striking visuals, we ought to ask, once we’re done being dazzled, whether they make any _sense._ There’s a scene early in Chimes, when Hotspur is getting ready to ride off to war, and the camera keeps cutting back to these trumpteters up on the castle battlements. They’re just totally rocking out like the horns section of a big band, swinging their horns around in unison, blowing fanfare after fanfare…the camera cuts back to them time and time again, as their choreography gets ever fancier…why? What a goofy place Castle Percy must be. No wonder they lost. Or how about those barren, arid, windswept plains in Spain that Welles was so enamored of, and we’re supposed to keep pretending are the rolling English countryside?

    There are great things in all of the films–even in Macbeth, weakest of the three–but I find it impossible to fully embrace any of them.

  3. Truthfully? I’ve never seen an Orson Welles movie. Not even Citizen Kane. My emotional attachment to Welles is the same as, say, to Spencer Tracy or Richard Burton. These are the people who made the movies that made television boring on Sunday afternoons for a kid like me. Your 12 years old, it’s 2pm on a Sunday, you’re flipping channels – I don’t care if Citizen Kane is on American Film Institute’s top 10, you’re gonna keep surfing right past it.

    In my old age I am trying to correct some of the errors of my youth :).

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