The crowning achievement of Orson Welles's extraordinary film career, Chimes at Midnight was the culmination of the filmmaker's lifelong obsession with Shakespeare's ultimate rapscallion, Sir John Falstaff. Usually a comic supporting figure, Falstaff--the loyal, often soused friend of King Henry IV's wayward son Prince Hal--here becomes the focus: a robustly funny and ultimately tragic screen antihero played by Welles with looming, lumbering grace.
Integrating elements from both Henry IV plays as well as Richard II, Henry V, and The Merry Wives of Windsor, Welles created a gritty and unorthodox Shakespeare film, one that he intended, he said, as "a lament . . . for the death of Merrie England." Poetic, philosophical, and visceral--with a kinetic centerpiece battle sequence that rivals anything else in the director's body of work--Chimes at Midnight is as monumental as the figure at its heart.
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