Chimes at Midnight

Archival Presentations | 1966 | 116 minutes

Stranger Says:

Deep Orson Welles nerds like to say this was his greatest film, Citizen Kane be damned. Well, I am a deep Orson Welles nerd, senator, and I say balderdash! Though Chimes might contain his best performance, it’s impossible to say definitively because it suffers from the same scrappy technical issues that mar all his independent work. Nevertheless, this innovative interpolation of Shakespeare is packed with startling images and heart-rending components. It’s obviously required viewing, especially with the benefit of a top-notch theatrical sound system to aid the grotty sound issues that have plagued every print I’ve ever seen of it. (SEAN NELSON)

SIFF Says:

“Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown,” King Henry IV mutters to himself in his eponymous play, but the quote could just as easily apply to Orson Welles. A giant in the worlds of theater and film, Welles nevertheless had a tumultuous journey through Hollywood, constantly battling studios over final cut and, in the most storied part of his career, going head-to-head with newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst over the thinly fictionalized narrative of Citizen Kane. By the 1960s, Welles had little clout, going so far as to promise to direct an adaptation of “Treasure Island”—a film that never came to fruition—in order to finance his lifelong dream project, 1966’s Chimes at Midnight, now newly restored from a long-lost 35mm print. A groundbreaking and gritty adaptation that streamlines five of Shakespeare’s plays—both parts of Henry IV, Richard II, Henry V, and The Merry Wives of WindsorChimes refocuses the Bard’s narratives on the relationship between childhood friends Prince Hal (Keith Baxter) and the roguish Sir John Falstaff (Welles). As Falstaff assists Hal in navigating the complicated and deadly world of British royal politics, even heading into battle in one of Welles’ most triumphant directorial sequences, he is increasingly neglected and estranged, and the character once considered mere comic relief is transformed into one of Shakespeare’s greatest tragic figures.

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Film Credits
Orson Welles
Orson Welles, Keith Baxter, John Gielgud, Norman Rodway, Alan Webb, Tony Beckley, Margaret Rutherford, Jeanne Moreau, Marina Vlady, Fernando Rey
SIFF 2016