Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Katie-Bar-The-Door Awards (1965)

A fool who is unaware he is a fool is a ripe subject for comedy. A fool who knows he is a fool, but who hopes and believes he is loved not just in spite of his foolishness but because of it only to discover at the critical moment that he is in fact despised, that's the stuff of tragedy.

And thus it is that Shakespeare's greatest comic creation, the blustering, cowardly, buffoonish Falstaff, who made appearances in the Henry IV plays, The Merry Wives of Windsor and finally in Henry V, winds up a tragic figure in one of the Bard's saddest story arcs.

In 1965, Orson Welles, a director of Shakespearean film adaptations rivaled only by Laurence Olivier and Kenneth Branagh, put Falstaff front and center where he belongs, stitching together all the fat fool's scenes into a single production. The result, Chimes at Midnight (a.k.a. Falstaff), tells the story of Prince Hal's rise to power through the eyes of theater's greatest clown, and despite technical limitations arising from Welles' lack of funding, belongs on a list with Citizen Kane, The Magnificent Ambersons, The Lady from Shanghai and Touch of Evil as the best work of the great director's career.

It's also the most personal of Welles's films, a lacerating self-portrait of a man fully aware of the cost of his life of excess and wasted potential—but who's had a good time nevertheless.

Highly recommended
if you can find it. There's a DVD available in Brazil that I hear might work on a U.S. player. Otherwise, it's pretty much YouTube or nothing.

P.S. And on a side note, a point I'd make a few paragraphs further down if I were writing a full-blown essay, I think Shakespeare dispatched Falstaff in such a coldblooded manner largely to get him off the stage—his outsized presence would have thrown the tone of Henry V out of whack—but I think he also wanted to make the point that our greatest leaders necessarily have within them a streak of ruthless pragmatism that's not pretty to look at but which separates them from the Don Quixotes of the world.

It's the price you pay for getting things done.

winner: Chimes At Midnight (a.k.a. Falstaff) (prod. Ángel Escolano, Emiliano Piedra and Harry Saltzman)
nominees: Doctor Zhivago (prod. Carlo Ponti); For A Few Dollars More (Per qualche dollaro in più) (prod. Arturo González); The Hill (prod. Kenneth Hyman); A Patch of Blue (prod. Pandro S. Berman); The Pawnbroker (prod. Philip Langner and Roger Lewis); Repulsion (prod. Gene Gutowski); The Spy Who Came In From The Cold (prod. Martin Ritt); The Train (prod. Jules Bricken)

PICTURE (Comedy/Musical)
winner: The Sound Of Music (prod. Robert Wise)
nominees: Help! (prod. Walter Shenson); A Thousand Clowns (prod. Fred Coe)

PICTURE (Foreign Language)
winner: Obchod na korze (The Shop On Main Street) (prod. Milos Broz and Jaromír Lukás)
nominees: Akahige (Red Beard) (prod. Ryûzô Kikushima and Tomoyuki Tanaka); Pierrot le fou (prod. Georges de Beauregard)

ACTOR (Drama)
winner: Rod Steiger (The Pawnbroker)
nominees: Claudio Brook (Simón del desierto a.k.a. Simon of the Desert); Richard Burton (The Spy Who Came In From The Cold); Sean Connery (The Hill); Burt Lancaster (The Train); Sidney Poitier (A Patch of Blue); Terence Stamp (The Collector); Orson Welles (Chimes At Midnight a.k.a. Falstaff)

ACTOR (Comedy/Musical)
winner: Lee Marvin (Cat Ballou)
nominees: The Beatles (Help!); Jean-Paul Belmondo (Pierrot le Fou); Jason Robards (A Thousand Clowns)

winner: Julie Christie (Darling and Doctor Zhivago)
nominees: Catherineo Deneuve (Repulsion); Samantha Eggar (The Collector); Elizabeth Hartman (A Patch Of Blue); Ida Kamiska (Obchod na korze a.k.a. The Shop on Main Street)

ACTRESS (Comedy/Musical)
winner: Julie Andrews (The Sound Of Music)
nominees: Anna Karina (Pierrot le fou); Guiletta Musina (Giulietta degli spiriti a.k.a. Juliet of the Spirits); Rita Tushingham (The Knack ... And How To Get It)

winner: Orson Welles (Chimes At Midnight a.k.a. Falstaff)
nominees: John Frankenheimer (The Train); Ján Kadár and Elmar Klos (Obchod na korze a.k.a. The Shop on Main Street); David Lean (Doctor Zhivago); Sergio Leone (For A Few Dollars More a.k.a. Per qualche dollaro in più); Roman Polanski (Repulsion)

DIRECTOR (Comedy/Musical)
winner: Richard Lester (The Knack ... And How To Get It and Help!)
nominees: Milos Forman (Lásky jedné plavovlásky a.k.a. Loves of a Blonde); Jean-Luc Godard (Pierrot le fou); Robert Wise (The Sound Of Music)

winner: Paul Scofield (The Train)
nominees: Harry Andrews (The Hill); Martin Balsam (A Thousand Clowns); Keith Baxter (Chimes At Midnight a.k.a. Falstaff); Tom Courteney (Doctor Zhivago); John Gielgud (Chimes At Midnight a.k.a. Falstaff); Edward G. Robinson (The Cincinnati Kid); Oskar Werner (The Spy Who Came In From The Cold)

winner: Silvia Pinal (Simón del desierto a.k.a. Simon of the Desert)
nominees: Joan Blondell (The Cincinnati Kid); Claire Bloom (The Spy Who Came In From The Cold); Ruth Gordon (Inside Daisy Clover); Maggie Smith (Othello); Peggy Wood (The Sound Of Music)

winner: Orson Welles, from the plays "Henry IV: Part I," "Henry IV: Part II," "Henry V," "Richard II" and "The Merry Wives of Windsor" by William Shakespeare, and the book Chronicles of England, Scotlande, and Irelande by Raphael Holinshed (Chimes At Midnight a.k.a. Falstaff)
nominees: Robert Bolt, from the novel by Boris Pasternak (Doctor Zhivago); Ladislav Grosman, Jan Kadar and Elmar Klos; story by Ladislav Grosman (Obchod na korze a.k.a. The Shop On Main Street)

"Help!" (Help!) music and lyrics by John Lennon and Paul McCartney (Song); The Beatles (Help!) (Original Song Score); Maurice Jarre (Doctor Zhivago) (Score)

1 comment:

Erik Beck said...

So glad that you wrote about Chimes. I wrote a whole review of it ( because some idiot in the St Pete Times basically blew off Welles post-Kane and some poor guy on CC2K had written a piece on Shakespeare films and had never even seen it.

Pull out that old VCR, find a good video store and start watching. It still exists if you know where to look. If not, ask me. I'll pick up a second VCR dirt cheap and tape you a copy.