Orson Welles is one of the incontestable giants of world cinema. His work as both actor and director left an indelible mark on generations of filmgoers.
Citizen Kane (1941), which he directed and starred in at the age of just 26, has been repeatedly enshrined by critics as the Greatest Film Ever Made and its influence on filmmakers of every stamp is widely acknowledged. His success in the role of Harry Lime, the seductively corrupt villain of Carol Reed’s The Third Man (1949), ensured him massive popular acclaim. Yet he is still in many ways underappreciated as a filmmaker. Welles remains now, as always, ahead of his time. In this, his centenary year, cinema still hasn’t caught up with the extraordinary verve, freedom and creative innovation of many of his later masterpieces. One of these is coming soon to a cinema near you!
To celebrate a hundred years of Orson Welles, Triskel Christchurch Cinema will be screening a gorgeous new restoration of one of his finest achievements, Chimes at Midnight (1966). Welles made three highly unconventional films adapted from Shakespeare of which Chimes at Midnight is the most highly regarded. They all succeed in the rare, if not unique, accomplishment of keeping Shakespeare’s original language and yet making it seem that he wrote them for the screen rather than the stage. Adapted from elements of five of Shakespeare’s plays, Chimes tells the story of his recurring character, the rascally Sir John Falstaff and his ultimately tragic father-son relationship with Prince Hal. Hal is torn between sowing his wild oats with Falstaff and loyalty to his father, King Henry IV.
Welles uses this drama as a frame in which to embroider a vivid, rambunctious and ultimately elegiac personal vision of medieval England. Built around a towering performance by Welles himself as the lovable rogue Falstaff, the film features an exceptional supporting cast that includes Jeanne Moreau, Margaret Rutherford, and John Gielgud as the ageing King Henry. A famous highlight of the film is its powerful staging of the Battle of Shrewsbury, which set a new standard for grittily realistic depictions of historical warfare.
Don’t miss the rare opportunity of seeing the film of which Welles himself declared “it’s my favourite picture” on the big screen!
Text by filmmaker and writer Maximilian Le Cain who will introduce the screening 8.15, Saturday 30 May.