Sponsored by Uri & Abba Lessing
Orson Welles’ dream of four decades (his cobbling together of four of the history plays, “Five Kings,” sank his celebrated Mercury Theater in 1938), his final—and arguably greatest—Shakespearean adaptation, is Chimes at Midnight (Falstaff). His wintry lament for the “death of Merrie England” with Welles’ “plump Jack Falstaff”—a part that, over the years, he grew into, quite literally—as the force of love and life versus the icily ruthless Prince Hal of Keith Baxter, with John Gielgud’s King Henry IV the moral center. Shot almost completely throughout with an extremely wide angle lens for a depth of focus seemingly approaching 3D, Chimes boasts some of Welles’ most grandiose imagery: Gielgud perched on his throne in some of the emptiest and draftiest castles ever filmed; Margaret Rutherford, Jeanne Moreau and Welles’ daughter Beatrice highlighted among teeming tavern scenes; Welles kneeling among a forest of spears, and hoisted, fully armored, atop a terrified horse; climaxing with one of the greatest battle scenes ever put on film. Rights issues over several decades have made it impossible to see one of Welles’ greatest masterpieces—the director’s personal favorite—until now, in this spectacular new digital restoration.