The crowning achievement of Orson Welles’s extraordinary cinematic career, Chimes at Midnight was the culmination of the filmmaker’s lifelong obsession with Shakespeare’s ultimate rapscallion, Sir John Falstaff, a robustly funny and ultimately tragic screen antihero played by Welles himself.
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Welles tackles a couple of Shakespeare's greatest histories, and the result is one master doing another complete justice. The movie perfectly captures the tension between responsibility and farce, which is the central theme of the plays.
This is a true masterpiece from Orson Welles who did more with Shakespeare then anyone else and he is absolutely brilliant as Falstaff. As a matter of fact everyone is brilliant in this film. Truly an underrated classic.
A full out feast of brilliance -- the occasional misstep here and there doesn't take away from the overall splendor. Welles delivers up all the bawdy humor and high eloquence and one of the great battle scenes in cinema, and if your eyes are dry during Margaret Rutherford's final speech you're just of no use to me at all....
A ramshackle triumph. It works because it embraces the boozy, whoring, and fundamentally anti-establishment spirit of Shakespeare, emphasises these elements, and makes a film commensurate in style with the playright's genius. And it was Welles's favourite of his own films.
As Welles said, Falstaff represents "the old England, dying and betrayed". (I'd add that only one part died, and it was indeed the best part.)