Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1965: Orson Welles in Chimes at Midnight

Orson Welles did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Sir John Falstaff in Chimes at Midnight.

Chimes At Midnight is a brilliant Shakespearean adaptation that reworks several of his plays to build a narrative around the supporting character of Falstaff, and his relationship with the young prince Hal aka the future Henry V.

Orson Welles's history with Shakespeare, in and outside of film, seemed often to reinvent the work of the bard through his own vision. That was found in his adaptation of Othello, where he built the central suspicion of the lead around the concern of his lack of attractiveness compared to wife, on stage his Macbeth with an all African American cast, his anti-fascist examination of Julius Caesar, really his film version Macbeth was by far was his least impressive adaptation perhaps because of how straight forward it was, his most daring work though was perhaps here through his turning John Falstaff into a lead while dramatically reworking texts into an altered narrative. Whereas as with Othello and Macbeth Welles was a rather atypical choice for the roles, it must be said Falstaff is a role Welles seemed born to play. A man of excess, a man tempted for glory, a man not opposed to go on long philosophical pondering of one matter or another. This should be a role made for Welles, and well it very much is. This match of man and role does not disappoint as evident from his very first scene where the young Prince Hal (Keith Baxter), awakens the old Knight whose purse has been stolen by another member of their group.

In the very awakening of the man Welles reveals the wholly brilliant fashion he will approach the part of Falstaff, which is pivotal in a realization of the nature of this man. Physically here this is perhaps where Welles most accepted his weight in a role as there is no attempt to hide it, in fact there seems to be the attempt to embrace it fully. Welles walks in a most fascinating way actually in that he doesn't lumber but rather has this grace. A grace though that should not exist from a man of his size yet can only be within a man of his size. When he awakens from that slumber he gets up  in a way that is fitting of both a knight and a buffoon. There is that proper gait of a knight, however with the silliness of a fool that seems so natural to everything that Welles finds in this role. His whole manner is of a sheer perfection in the realization of the strange role that Falstaff fulfills in this world. It is widely evident from even a single glance that he is a fool, after all the first thing he does is fail to find what is stolen from him, however the foolishness is not in the way it would be for any man. Falstaff is of a different sort than all that and this is within the Welles carries himself with this grandeur that is worthy of a greatness, a greatness Falstaff though is not worthy of.

Falstaff's life is in a way an entirely of hypocrisy validated through his companion of the young Prince Hal, which is contrast to the rest of his entourage that is made up of thieves, whores, other lowly sorts who all congregate within a dank little tavern. The key though to Falstaff is the way the man presents himself. Welles's fantastic here, and perhaps gives his most overtly charming performance as Falstaff. Welles brings an inherent joviality within the man that exudes off of him in such a pleasant way. Welles even speaks the words themselves without distance, creating a real familiarity with the knight through every word. As the prince Hal does, it becomes very easy to love Falstaff as there seems only the most splendid of hearts within the man and through Welles's portrayal of it. There is an excessive abundance of warmth and a considerable playfulness in every moment. Welles in this way creates the greater appeal to the thievery and whoring that Falstaff encourages since it seems all but a game. A game with a most simple man to follow into every act given how disarming Falstaff is even when he charges group of men with his sword in order to rob them.

The truth of it is that Falstaff though is no ordinary buffoon but only because of only his own way of creating a certain delusion. Welles does not make this any simple creation of a delusion as it is part of Falstaff's very being. Again there is that grace which Welles captures so effectively and takes even further whenever he is called upon to for his particularly ramblings on the value of being an corpulent fool essentially. Welles in every word speaks with such unshakable pride. There is not a hint of shame but in a way that does not deter one from accepting the man's declarations. Falstaff as he even mocks Hal's father Henry IV (John Gielgud) grants only a most endearing quality to the forceful spirit of the man. It is a marvelous thing perhaps in the way Welles is wholly without a hint of malevolence for even a moment, even if his sentiment may construed as such in some way. Welles captures the firmness of Falstaff's beliefs without question. Welles speaks with the same passion, same assurance, as Henry would eventually do when leading his men into battle, it just happens that what Falstaff speaks of is the desire to continue a life of great unimportance.

Eventually the world of the outside is thrust upon Falstaff and Hal, when the young prince is needed to help his father quell an uprising within the borders of England. This is no problem it seems for Falstaff in fact Welles is something truly special in portraying the Falstaff brims with a remarkable majesty as he goes about preparing for the upcoming battle. In his full armor he suddenly seems a man who was born to battle, a warrior poet if there ever was one and Welles again is careful to hold not a whiff of loathing within a man presenting himself prepared to take on all comers. Of course when the battle itself comes the great knight hides behind bushes for the majority of the battle only coming out to claim victory for the death of the enemy leader, actually felled by Hal. Hal doesn't stop Falstaff from the credit, and only seems slightly taken aback by this act. The thing is neither did I feel the need for Falstaff to be punished. Again Welles's portrayal of the lack of shame, and the full embrace of even this cowardice someone endears one to the knight all the more. It would seem wrong for the knight to shed blood, or to not be a coward. Welles gives understanding to the man, as he finds his appeal so naturally, as every moment he is exactly who he has always been and should be.

The glory of Falstaff is a short one though when the death of Hal's father requires the young wayward boy to become a man and finally embrace his destiny as king. This though leads the Hal to directly denounce Falstaff when the old knight attempts to continue his place as his mentor even as king. Welles is indeed heartbreaking in his reaction of confusion as Falstaff is rejected, but all the same there was a devious, a charming, yet still devious grin as he spoke of claiming his new rights as friend to the king. It is with this there is this duality of the character, but only in terms of other's perspective of the man. This is both as the viewer and as Hal sees him. Welles in his own place understand that Falstaff simply is who he is, and doesn't change except towards that final depression. The duality instead comes what should one take of the man. Are his lessons worthless, is he a bad influence, or is he a charming man whose teachings were worthwhile in some way. Well all of it is true and all of it can be true through Welles's outstanding performance. Welles grants the appeal unquestionably the man, even the appeal of his hypocrisy and most problematic qualities. Welles makes Falstaff the grand yet pathetic, or perhaps pathetic yet grand man he is. He embodies that one of a kind spirit. What is perhaps the greatest achievement of this is how Welles, without changing the man at any point, allows this pathos within the often comical by showing tragedy in losing this spirit, even while showing why that spirit must be lost. This is a wonderful performance by Orson Welles, giving one of the greatest cinematic Shakespearean turns by finding the complexity within a certain simplicity and giving a real power to the story of a buffoon.

60 comments:

Luke Higham said...

So happy with this review. Welles definitely has the lineup won, so I should win this prediction if Castel gets a 4.5.

Louis: Thoughts on the cast.

Anonymous said...

1. Welles
2. Castel
3. Kroner
4. Zybulski
5. Heston

Luke Higham said...

Calvin: I'm thinking of requesting Gleeson and Grant in Paddington 2 for the 2017 bonus round sometime after the alternates are complete.

Mitchell Murray said...

Louis, what would your top 5 performances of Welles be and where might Citizen Kane be in that list?

Luke Higham said...

Mitchell: Compulsion and Othello are #4 and #5. Chimes At Midnight is either #1 or #2.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: What's your updated prediction for Supporting Actor.

Apart from Dafoe and Rockwell, I'm going with Jenkins, Plummer and Carell.

Matt Mustin said...

Luke: I'm predicting Dafoe, Rockwell, Stuhlbarg, Jenkins and Plummer just for the narrative surrounding him.

Mitchell Murray said...

I'll say as of right now Dafoe, Rockwell and Jenkins are virtually locked. Plummers a good bet due to the success of his movie, and for the fifth slot, I'll actually go Hammer though he'll need a big boost.

Luke Higham said...

Matt and Mitchell: Hammer and Stuhlbarg really need Bafta nominations to stand a chance because they could definitely cancel each other out.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: And any other recent viewings.

Robert MacFarlane said...

Louis: To respond to your comment in the previous post, I actually liked Stuhlbarg more because I found his character fascinating. Concerning the style, my problem with Shannon was that it felt like he seemed indifferent to... well, everything surrounding him. He gives the same exact performance he gave in Premium Rush, just minus any fun.

Michael McCarthy said...

Robert: What I loved most about the film is that the sci-fi element was always secondary to the film's statements on the nature of oppression. The story is about a disabled woman, an older gay man, a black woman, and an immigrant with an unpopular political affiliation joining together to rescue another marginalized individual from his straight, white, all-American captor.

On that note, it wouldn't have made sense for Shannon to give a "fun" performance as Strickland. This is literally a guy who gets off on silencing people. He should only be creepy and unpleasant. I'll give you that in most ways (but not all) this performance isn't subtle, but the aspect of society that he represents has been so pervasive for so long that I think going big was the right call.

Robert MacFarlane said...

All I could think watching it was "You could do this story without the fishman". And yes, I would say Strickland should have been played in a more fun way given how broad strokes and stupidly evil the character was. Really I thought the characterization was incredibly thin outside of Stuhlbarg's conflicted spy. I mean, Hawkins was impressive, but I thought she was working against the script for the most part.

Matt Mustin said...

Louis, have you watched The Sunset Limited? It's worth watching just to see two actors as great as Tommy Lee Jones and Samuel L. Jackson play off each other for an hour and half.

Calvin Law said...

I thought Shannon's intensity was funny up till the point you saw his family home life, and that's exactly what the film was going for I believe.

Mitchell Murray said...

Finally got around to seeing "Call Me By Your Name" and uh.. yah, the movie's great. I won't pigeon hold into one category by comparing it to "Moonlight" just based on its subject matter, because it really is an excellent romance drama regardless of who's falling in love. To my knowledge I don't think I've seen a more natural or authentic looking film this year, or one where I was more invested in the characters and setting. This is one for the books.

Saving Chalamet obviously.

Hammer and Stuhlbarg - 4.5 (Both are great as the opposing male figures of Elio's life. Nothing in his previous filmography would have made me think Hammer could handle a role this nuanced or affecting, but he pulls it off. The character may be in his wheelhouse of prickly, self confident men but he does show an impressive command of himself here, getting across Oliver's personal experience in an honest and affecting way. Stuhlbarg has substantially less screen time but he's equally heartfelt as the father. There's just a nice warmth that he brings to his scenes that effectively keeps the movie grounded. He also does a terrific job with his final speech in what could have otherwise felt forced given the natural flow of dialogue before. Both men are very strong here and I would be pleased to see either or both make the final cut.)

Calvin Law said...

I think Stuhlbarg's going to be the one who makes the final cut. I preferred Hammer, but the narrative seems to suit Stuhlbarg more (i.e. a John C. Reilly back in 2002 situation). I think the final 5 will be:

Rockwell
Dafoe
Jenkins
Stuhlbarg
Carell

Of course, Academy could always prove me wrong and double-nominate, or get Plummer, Rylance, Poulter (oh who am I kidding), Mitchell in. But I'm going with these 5.

Calvin Law said...

Mitchell: definitely agree it shouldn't be compared to Moonlight. COMPLETELY different style, tone, and actually subject matter too. If anything it's 'The Florida Project' which has been Moonlight's less successful younger brother.

Mitchell Murray said...

At the moment I'll still go with Dafoe, Hammer, Jenkins, Rockwell and Plummer. Really the final clue as to gets in lies with the Baftas.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: I'm predicting Oldman, Day-Lewis, Chalamet, Franco and Kaluuya (He should get the BAFTA nomination) for Leading Actor.

Mitchell Murray said...

(Luke) I concur

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Also, I can't wait for your 8th anniversary Oscar Predictions on New Year's Day. :)

Anonymous said...

Louis and everyone: Does anyone think Sam Rockwell can be considered co-lead in Three Billboards? Because I'm very much in doubt whether he's even co-lead or supporting.

And what roles in film history do you people see Ben Foster as a good fit for?

Michael McCarthy said...

Rockwell definitely borders on lead.

Calvin Law said...

Yeah I've been meaning to ask you all about that too, he definitely has a lot of scenes directly from his perspective, particularly at the end when interacting with Mildred. I do put him in Supporting though mainly due to the first half of the film - he'd be my #2 in Lead as well.

Anonymous: Ben Foster would be a great Clyde to say, Elizabeth Debicki as Bonnie.

Louis Morgan said...

Luke:

Baxter - 4(He's quite good actually to the point I think he could have delivered if the story had continued to tell all of Henry V. Baxter finds the right combination though of carefree charm in the role, but also the right sense of that underlying power the man would eventually bring. He portrays well the struggle between the two on the one side of the man content in doing absolutely nothing worthwhile with his time, but with the right nuance in certain moments to portray the growing maturity and potential greatness in the young prince.)

Gielgud - 4(Gielgud delivers a performance that works effectively in contrast to Welles's. As he actually aids in the appeal of Falstaff by showing the cold kingly nature of the man, though Gielgud never makes him a negative character. Gielgud instead effectively conveys within this the burden of responsibility and the right calm passion of man trying to rule his kingdom peacefully. It's a performance that sneaks up on you in the right away as his one emotional moment at the end well earned because Gielgud so effectively made the King a certain kind of man from the start. Gielgud manages to make the reverse of Welles )

Moreau and Rutherford are both good in very minor roles.

All the Money in the World
Mark Felt: Or how to make the story of the man who brought down the White House really boring.

Matt:

I have not.

Luke Higham said...

Thoughts on the films and casts.

Louis Morgan said...

Mark Felt chief sin, other than an horrendous title, takes a great story and makes it a tedious bore. It never scratches below the surface of the man only succeeding in making him far less intriguing than he naturally was in All The President's Men. There is a bizarre lack of emotion in any point only creating these muted moments throughout, and so ineffectively bringing to life the potency of the real life story. There are various threads that are so haphazardly introduced and resolved without any impact. It's two kinds of a bad film, waste of a good story and it's just bland.

Neeson - 2.5(He's no Hal Holbrook, he's no Liam Neeson as Michael Collins even. Neeson is very one note here just staying on this singular note of quiet frustration and doing very little with this. He is stoic to a fault rarely making more than a minor Neeson growl and offering little in terms of the subtle nuance in his work to make this appropriate for such a man. He frankly feels more distant at times than Holbrook did which is very problematic when Holbrook was meant to be an enigma. His action performances frankly have far more depth than is found here, which is very disappointing.)

Lane - 3(The performance she's been doing for awhile now as the supportive however there is far less of it. I will say there also seems to be substantial portion missing given the postscript. She's fine as usual, however the film fails to make any use of her work here to any great effect.)

Monroe - 2.5(Her plot line seems strangely superfluous by the end of the film and she certainly doesn't make the needed impact in her two scenes to make that aspect of the film work.)

Csokas - 3(The best part of the film strangely enough as he managed to mine a bit of complexity within the role. He actually doesn't go one offering at least something towards the characters struggle to deal with his peculiar position, and due his performance he is far more compelling than the central character who is made far too straight forward.)

Louis Morgan said...

All the Money in the World is a more than decent crime thriller. It isn't anything extraordinary however it effectively tells its own potent story. Also Scott must be commended for pulling off those re-shoots as Plummer's role is substantial, and only the brief appearance of Kevin Spacey as the world's most expensive stand in are they at all noticeable. The film doesn't reinvent anything within a kidnapping film but it crafts the right tension within those scenes. What is most compelling though is the depiction of the elder Getty's view of wealth and money, and the story of the woman related by motherhood trying to negotiate with both the kidnappers and her "family".

Williams - (Haven't settled on a rating yet but this is actually one of my favorite performances of hers. She doesn't overdo the affluent accent but rather makes it natural aspect to the character that just blends after a couple of scenes. She's terrific though in giving life to the thriller, especially since Wahlberg does not do so, but Williams picks up any slack there. She's great in bringing that tension alive by so well depicting the emotional exhaustion and creating a genuine concern through making the mother's love a constant. She's equally strong though in creating the sense of the tragic and awkward state of the woman who is among money yet penniless herself. I love Williams bringing such striking combination of disgust, disbelief, and actually even a bit humor when showing she can't help but laugh at the insanity of it all. I really loved this performance and found that even when the film occasionally faltered a bit she brought me right back in by just how devoted and attuned her work is.)

Wahlberg - 2(Did not seem to know why he was there. His role was limited to begin with however he does nothing with it. Wahlberg is just a poor fit for what needed to be subtle performance. It isn't that he's overt, but rather he just seems lost because he can't go big. He never seems to know what to do in any given scene making his character far more of a mystery than he should have been. He's terribly bland and completely overshadowed by both Williams and Plummer throughout.)

Plummer the younger - 2.5(He's mostly fine in just being a slightly annoying yet still sympathetic enough victim for much of the film. He doesn't go beyond what he is given, but he doesn't falter too much within it either. He's there, never bad, but not quite all that good either.)

Duris - 4(Found him to be a pleasant surprise, mostly because I did not know he was in it and was struggling the whole time thinking "Where have I seen him before?". Anyway though once I figured that out his good performance was no longer a surprise. As sort of the "good" kidnapper Duris brings a great deal of heart and warmth in the role without over doing it. He makes it a natural transformation for the character and is rather moving by depicting a certain desperation within the man as he can't help himself but do the right thing.)

Luke Higham said...

Ok, I'm definitely intrigued for Plummer's review.

Louis Morgan said...

Mitchell:

1. Touch of Evil
2. Chimes at Midnight
3. The Third Man
4. Compulsion
5. Othello

Calvin Law said...

Luke: your predictions for Louis' top 10 in supporting?

1. Rockwell
2. Poulter
3. Ford
4. Harrelson
5. Plummer
6. Mitchell
7. Hamill
8. Dano
9. Lynch
10. Jenkins/Shannon

Anonymous said...

Louis: I don't know if you've posted them or not, but what are your thoughts on Kathy Bates as Joan Blondell?

Robert MacFarlane said...

I hope it isn't Rockwell. His performance was fine, but absolutely no actor alive could have sold that role. There are way, way more worthy performances than his this year.

Matt Mustin said...

Robert: That's your opinion.

Robert MacFarlane said...

Matt: *sigh* Yeah.

Robert MacFarlane said...

I guess it doesn't help that I dislike Three Billboards more and more with each passing day. Even the parts I liked aren't sticking with me. The more I think about it, the more I realize it reminds me of Crash.

Calvin Law said...

Robert: I'm afraid he's pretty much a lock insofar as Louis' choices are concerned. Can't imagine anyone else taking it based on his tastes.

Robert MacFarlane said...

Calvin: Well, hopefully someone like Patrick Stewart will prove that wrong.

Bryan L. said...

Everyone: Who do you see playing Frank Abagnale and Carl Hanratty in a 2010s version of Catch Me if You Can? I'm thinking Andrew Garfield (I could picture him having a ball with that part) and Robert Downey Jr.

Calvin Law said...

I'd go for Timothée Chalamet and Jason Bateman myself.

Luke Higham said...

Calvin: Strange that you left out Stewart.

I'll probably do mine in no particular order since I still haven't got around to seeing a few of those films.

I'll give it within the next hour or two.

Calvin Law said...

Fuck I completely forgot. Stewart is going to make the top 5 I feel, and I forgot Dafoe too.

So probably

Rockwell
Poulter
Ford
Stewart
Harrelson

Luke Higham said...

Calvin:
Rockwell
Poulter
Stewart
Harrelson
Plummer
Ford
Hamill
Dano
Mitchell
Lynch

Luke Higham said...

I have Boyega at #11.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Are there any more saves that you could give thoughts on. I highly doubt Mendelsohn and Rylance getting in.

Calvin Law said...

There's definitely always going to be a surprise in the Supporting category. Last year I definitely wasn't expecting Neill in the top 5 or Ineson in the top 10.

Luke Higham said...

Calvin: I wholly expected Neill in the top 5 whereas I just hoped Ineson and Scrimshaw would do well and justify my requests for them.

Luke Higham said...

My rating predictions for 65 supporting.

Harris - 5
Shaw - 4.5/5
Douglas - 4.5
Rains, Heston & Pleasence - 4.5

Not sure on who's taking the 5th slot though Louis must have someone in mind.

Alex Marqués said...

I've read praise about Keoghan in The Killing of a Sacred Deer, but I doubt it's the kind of performance Louis enjoys.

Luke Higham said...

Alex: Those on the blog that saw it, weren't overly impressed with Keoghan, as well as the film.

Giuseppe Fadda said...

I actually liked The Killing of a Sacred Deer and I’d give Keoghan a 4.5. Having said that, I don’t think Louis will care much for the film and I don’t think he’d give Keoghan more than a 4 (at best).

Luke Higham said...

Giuseppe: I keep getting an impression that Keoghan's performance could be another Ezra Miller in We Need To Talk About Kevin.

Alex Marqués said...

Luke: Have you seen the film?

Luke Higham said...

Alex: No, but I can see some similarities and Louis didn't care much for The Lobster either.

Luke Higham said...

Alex: I honestly don't think the film's gonna be for me personally.

Robert MacFarlane said...

Saw Darkest Hour. Very much not my thing, though I had a bad stomach watching it, so maybe that clouded my judgment. Oldman has his moments, but I wouldn't nominate him personally.

Mitchell Murray said...

I'm sorry to have to do this to you Robert, but I just watched "Three Billboards" and I must admit..I think it's very good. I don't believe it to be better than In Bruges or even Seven Psychopaths, and I will agree much of the narrative does rely on coincidence and less on genuine character arcs. Still, I laughed at the humour, believed in the relationships and followed the story from beginning to end. Its not necessarily a great movie like McDonaugh's previous works, but it is very good.

Saving McDormand obviously.

Harrelson and Rockwell - 4.5/5 for both (At the moment I couldn't say who I preferred since both do a great job playing off the leading lady and with their own characters. I will say Dixon's development is a little rushed but Rockwell never seems lost in his performance. I bought everything he was doing in the role from his intimidation of witnesses to his breakdown part way through to his eventual acceptance or at least decision towards the end. He was absolutely the right actor to pull it off and there isn't a moment he fails. With that said I will fully reveal right now that I love Harrelson's performance. He takes someone who could easily be forgettable and gives so much heart to his work here. Some of my favourite scenes in the movie involve him talking to Mildred because him and McDormand do present a palpable history between them. Harrelson handles his character's illness with authenticity and makes every decision worth while. Both of these men do excellent work here, and I could easily raise their scores or switch between who I liked more. I'll be happy if Rockwell gets in and I'll be equally excited if Harrelson sneaks in as well.)

Hawkes - 3.5 (He's not in it much but Hawkes gives a fine performance that realizes his dynamic with Mildred well)

Hedges and Dinklage - 3.5/3 (Hedges gives a similar performance to his Manchester role which works good for the part. Once again he's not as competent with overt emotion but does quiet pain quite well. Dinklage is fine too, though its not his flashiest or meatiest character by some distance.)

Really everyone else in the movie is good with the exception of Abbie Cornish. She just didn't sit as well for me in that I wasn't necessarily convinced by her attempts to convey her characters grief.

Luke Higham said...

Calvin: And I forgot about Dafoe, he'll finish 9th or 10th.

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous:

Bates - (She struggles for me because she's mainly in episodes directed by Ryan Murphy which emphasizes the camp. This leaves Bates in just really a caricature of an old Hollywood starlet rather to really examine who this woman is beyond that. Bates does much better in at least given a bit of substance below the bastardized glamor granted to the character in a few moments. It still is muted due to the limits of her role however she is far better than Catherine Zeta Jones, but when Jones gave one of the worst performances I've ever seen, that's not saying much.)

Luke:

Hold up there if Mendelsohn or Rylance were going to show up for a precursor it would be BAFTA. Let's wait and see.