The body of work that enigmatic genius Orson Welles produced in his time on Earth is probably more than most of today’s best filmmakers will ever produce in their lives. While that may be a bit of an overstatement, there is no denying that there’s a reason Welles’ work is still preached in film schools around the world. For a man who did so much, it’s also a shame that some of his best work hasn’t been seen in a such a long time. Back in January we reported that his unfinished film “The Other Side of the Wind,” which features an insane ensemble that includes names like John Huston and Dennis Hopper, would finally see the light of day, but little has come of that. Now, another of Welles’ films is being unearthed, and this release seems a whole lot more promising (and not to mention definite).
The Independent is reporting that the Welles’ take on Shakespeare’s character Falstaff, “Chimes at Midnight” is finally free of its legal purgatory and will be screening at the Picturehouse Cinemas’ Screen Arts Festival in York, U.K. The film has been tangled in legal red tape for years (and subject to shoddy DVD releases from less-than-reputable labels), but a decent print was recently discovered in the care of Spanish producer Emiliano Piedra’s daughter. The film has been completely restored and feature what many critics hail as Welles’ finest performance alongside “Citizen Kane.”
That said, we’ve been burned by these kinds of announcements before, and given the messy, hazy rights issue surrounding many of his works, you never know who will pop up to try and claim ownership (paging Beatrice Welles…). For those of us who won’t be fortunate enough to catch the film at one of its British screenings, we can only hope that a distribution label like Criterion will snatch this one up, since we’re guessing we aren’t the only ones excited by the idea of a chance to catch one of Welles’ masterpieces. Perhaps it’s fitting that Welles has left such a jumbled legacy behind, because it makes moments like these not just newsworthy, but a little bit magical too. Now, if the only the original ending and excised scenes from “The Magnificent Ambersons” would turn up…
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