Chimes at Midnight (New Restoration!)

Criminally underseen, but revered within the collector and underground film communities, Orson Welles’ Chimes at Midnight is one of the filmmaker’s great excavations of an unsung Shakespeare foil, the bumbling knight Sir John Falstaff (a side character who appears in Henry IV and The Merry Wives of Windsor). For Welles, Shakespeare’s work was less a complete body of masterpieces and more a treasure trove of projects to be further developed, raw material ripe for conversion to complex on-screen dramas. In the words of Pauline Kael, “[Welles] has directed a sequence, the Battle of Shrewsbury, which is unlike anything he has ever done, indeed unlike any battle ever done on the screen before. It ranks with the best of Griffith, John Ford, Eisenstein, Kurosawa—that is, with the best ever done.”

Welles felt that Shakespeare’s work echoed in an almost ethereal way through social and political ages, and in that sense Chimes plays as a very personal film; perhaps Welles’ most personal Shakespeare adaptation outside of his attempted Merchant of Venice project and portrayal of Shylock. It’s an essential work—only funded via Welles’ false promise to a producer that he would also direct a film of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island—rescued and presented in a new restoration by Janus Films.

Dir. Orson Welles, 1965, DCP Restoration, 113 min.

Watch the trailer!