The Tragedy of Othello: The Moor of Venice (1951)
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Visually, Orson Welles' Othello is a triumph. The lighting, the angles, the blocking, the editing, they're all pushing the play's anxious atmosphere. Every shot a marvel, and though Welles blacks up, it's not as egregious as some performances would have it (still an annoyance to modern eyes, one that mars every adaptation past a certain point back in history). It's too bad it has sound problems, like out of sync dialog. But if I don't rate it as a great Shakespeare adaptation, it's that at 93 minutes, it's running through plot points a little too quickly. If I didn't know the play, I'd be hard pressed to figure out what Roderigo's role was all about, for example. It slows down in the final act, thankfully, finally letting the performances breathe a little. Film is a visual medium, I get it, but when film makers push the visuals to the detriment of the text, I think they've missed the boat when it comes to Shakespeare.
This film by Orson Welles, was 'restored' by a group in Chicago in 1991/2. The film was transferred to, and enhanced in video, (D1 format) retaining it as black and white. The audio was completely rebuilt, including the score, in Stereo Surround. All dialogue, however was original. This was a problem as some of the dialogue was distorted and unintelligible...The process took 9 months. It was then purchased for distribution by Castle Hill, and taken to New York where it went through another transformation before release. Unintelligible dialogue was replaced with 'sound-alikes'. This decision was made for the entertainment value of the film. The original mono music was then reintroduced into the final product. Basically, the film was retransferred, and the rebuilt sound effects tracks were added...There are actually 3 significant versions of this film. The version that is available on DVD and at Film Festivals is the "restored" version mentioned above. The Criterion laserdisc consists of Orson Welles' American version of the film in which he completely overdubbed Desdemona's voice with a new actress and overdubbed many characters including Roderigo with his own voice. In addition this version contains written credits instead of spoken and has many alternate shots.
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In 6 official lists
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This movie ranks #16 in Cannes Film Festival - Palme d'Or
This movie ranks #339 in Jonathan Rosenbaum's Essential Films
This movie ranks #445 in Have You Seen? A Personal Introduction to 1,000 Films
This movie ranks #643 in The Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made
This movie ranks #924 in They Shoot Pictures, Don't They?
This movie ranks #1014 in The Criterion Collection