' "Othello, '' one of the filmmaker's great masterpieces, has, after years of neglect in the United States, undergone a substantial and welcome restoration. Thanks to the production of a new master negative and a partially restored and partially rerecorded soundtrack, the full 91 minutes of the 1952 film will be available to American audiences in 35mm and, later, on video and laserdisc.
Previously, those lucky enough to see the film at all had to be satisfied with a foggy-looking 16mm print that had nearly unintelligible sound.
The picture restoration, done from the original camera negative, is dramatic. Welles' images are strong, stark and Crystal Clear
. This is key, because although the film's compositions are vertiginously bold, the performances are deliberately subdued, and the change in facial expressions require a careful scrutiny that, in the old prints, was difficult if not impossible.
The sound restoration was apparently more difficult and, in the eyes of some critics, more problematic. The dialogue was recorded post-sync, much of it "wild'' -- that is, not to the picture. Welles himself redubbed the lines of Robert Coote
Also, since the process was done over a four-year period, due to production and financial difficulties, different equipment, with different responses, was used.
The response was, first of all, to have conductor Michael Pendowski listen to the musical score, transcribe it and rerecord it. The result is a beautiful stereo score in place of the mono original.
The dialogue, for its part, was gleaned from the original optical negative and processed digitally, so that the synchronization could be improved. Hiss was also eliminated.
The result is mighty impressive. Although still clearly dubbed, the dialogue is absolutely clear and perfectly matched to lip movements. The effect of Welles' naturalistic approach to the dialogue -- he had eliminated most of the characters' speeches -- can be fully appreciated.
There have been some complaints that Pendowski's instrumentation is quite different from the original, and that many of
There have been some complaints that Pendowski's instrumentation is quite different from the original, and that many ofWelles' effects -- ranging from a strummed piano to a bridge of Gregorian chants -- have not survived the restoration.
Apparently, the prints in Europe are based on the film's Cannes print and this restoration is a slightly different version cut for the original New York premiere. A comparison of the two could be useful.
Restoration credits only:
INTERMISSION PRODUCTIONS LTD.
A CASTLE HILL PRODUCTIONS RELEASE
Producers Michael Dawson, Arnie Saks
Executive producers Donald M. Leibsker, Edward H. Stone, James J. Trainor
In association with Beatrice Welles-Smith, Christopher F. Smith
Final restoration supervisor Phillip Schopper
Final Re-Recording Mixer Lee Dichter
Final Post Production Services Sound One/New York
Orchestral Reconstrction Michael Pendowski
Nitrate Restoration Film Technology Company
Running time -- 91 minutes
NO MPAA RATING
(c) The Hollywood Reporter