(Dir. Orson Welles) (1966)
Welles amalgamates Shakespeare’s Henry plays and more: apparently made on a shoestring, in Spain, and technically a shambles, it still reeks of authenticity (like Welles’ Macbeth and Othello) and soars due to sterling performances and a script justly centred on the père / fils triangle between Henry IV (a chilly, imperious John Gielgud), Falstaff (a rambunctious Welles) and young Prince Hal, errant royal buck soon to grow (or shrivel) to dour, dismal, ungrateful King.
Falstaff is a giant figure in literature (other than in adapted, borrowed and diminished form in the Bard’s by-the-numbers comedy) and here Welles, himself a famous big talker and big liver, plays him gloriously. Welles’ unerring dramatic sense of stage and film, and the Spanish wind, rain, and mud, is used to convey a great rich flurry, with resources on a very small scale, vindicating President Coolidge’s dictum that “economy is idealism in it most practical form.”
(Orson Welles 6 May 1915 – 10 October, 1985)
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