Great Movies III

film 4 of 8

Chimes at Midnight

Draft Review by Dean Duncan Jun 2, 2015

The sound leaves this feeling quite like an avant garde film, which maybe it is, as with Othello, but with a text less familiar, clear trajectories of plot and character are not achieved (not attempted?), and instead we have revelatory stretches interspersed with exhilarating incomprehensibles, it’s talked so fast and overlappingly that you’re left either rewinding endlessly (finding sometimes very funny lines and sometimes admirably abstract sound design [not meaning, but sound]) or just gasping at the dizzying camera moves and the just right camera placements; the theatrics at the inn and the corrupt conscription are the best sequences, the battle’s justifiably celebrated, with the expert comic build-up–lifting his fatness into the saddle–giving way very powerfully to the crud and the mud, screen direction’s thrown out, just like in End of St. Petersburg, and of course the latter Henry V, and when the camera starts zipping around in some kind of crazy fast motion it begins to have the aspect of hallucination, and nightmare, Gielgud’s very good, and a nice touch is to have people mocking his plumminess, Hal falls quite short, especially at the climax, which really doesn’t have the pop it’s meant to, finally it’s Welles himself who makes the film, looking quite beautiful in his immensity, full of love and humour, and making you think the inevitable thoughts about art, business, blighted potential and things that might have been