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Otello (1986)

Based on Shakesphere's play, Verdi's opera depicts the devastating effects of jealousy, "...the green-eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds upon". Believing Otello has promoted the... See full summary »

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(libretto), (adaptation) | 1 more credit »
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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 2 wins & 6 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Katia Ricciarelli ...
...
Petra Malakova ...
...
Massimo Foschi ...
Edwin Francis ...
Sergio Nicolai ...
Remo Remotti ...
Antonio Pierfederici ...
Ezio Di Cesare ...
Cassio (voice)
John Macurdy ...
Lodovico (voice)
Constantin Zaharia ...
Roderigo (voice)
Edward Toumajian ...
Montano (voice)
Giannicola Pigliucci ...
Brabantio (voice)
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Storyline

Based on Shakesphere's play, Verdi's opera depicts the devastating effects of jealousy, "...the green-eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds upon". Believing Otello has promoted the fast-rising Cassio over himself, Iago plots to destroy both Cassio and Otello. Iago convinces the jealous Otello that his beautiful wife Desdemona is unfaithful, and that Cassio is her lover. Jealousy is followed by tragedy, then retribution, "Has Heaven no more thunderbolts?" Written by Mike Smith <mismith@brody.med.ecu.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Drama | Music

Certificate:

PG | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

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Language:

Release Date:

12 September 1986 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Othellos  »

Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$23,076 (USA) (14 September 1986)

Gross:

$189,042 (USA)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Color:

(Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Franco Zeffirelli later said that out of all the films he ever made, "Otello" is his favorite, and admitted that after he made the picture, he had "a bit of a crisis" because he felt that he could never be able to duplicate that achievement. See more »

Connections

Referenced in The Cinema Snob: Endless Love (2014) See more »

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User Reviews

 
More Zeffirelli Than Verdi...Yet, Still Feast For Eyes And Ears
12 February 2013 | by (Cieszyn, Poland) – See all my reviews

The very beginning of OTELLO with everything so vastly bigger than reality sets the tone for our expectations. Some are disappointed, others are surprised.

It seems, having found out Franco Zeffirelli's entire filmography, that the key movie which truly delivers the director's masterful eye for details as well as the desirable faithfulness in adapting the classical source to the screen is TRAVIATA with Placido Domingo and Teresa Stratas. There, you do not have to be particularly fond of opera to love it. Indeed, echoing Vincent Canby's words of September 1986, in TRAVIATA "opera and film are effortlessly made to seem one." OTELLO, made 5 years later with the great tenor in the lead, appears to be a slightly different case in which aesthetic beauty is combined with classic tragedy but the manner is ultimately individual.

The 2013 Year of Verdi may constitute a wonderful opportunity to broaden one's knowledge of this great composer, the genius of his time. However, many viewers who have seen Franco Zeffirelli's OTELLO will probably agree with the New York Times reviewer, Vincent Canby, that, unlike TRAVIATA, the movie rather "ornaments" the original than "reveals" it. Therefore, from the very opening shot with its grandeur and the majestic display of elaborate visuals rather than Verdi's storm music (which appears to be in the shadow of spectacle), OTELLO is foremost an expression of the director's style.

Yes, it is more Zeffirelli than Verdi in its divided pieces, some chaotic continuity, dreamlike photography by the director's mainstay, Ennio Guarnieri, aestheticism and the vital, engrossing and a little terrifying conclusion. At certain moments, visuals and symbols appear to be supplied with an almost spiritual piety. Such care is being handled, such effort being put to everything. Although it may consist of certain liberties with the original source, nothing seems to stand in the way towards leaving the viewer dazzled at the creative use of images, dazzling costumes, breathtaking colors, camera angles and the cast who make it all beautifully acted and sung. They allow you to search into their souls. Yes, they will completely captivate you.

Of course, the nature of this movie, opera, makes the performances considerably overacted. Viewers who are not used to such pompous execution of the sung lines may feel at odds with the over-dramatized moments. Yet, Zeffirelli, as in many (of not all) of his other movies supplies us with beautiful characters whose looks alone somehow make them easily identified with and likable. The pairing of Placido Domingo as Otello and Katia Ricciarelli as Desdemona rewards us all. By splendid combination of emotional resonance and the dramatic tensions, they deliver exceptionally memorable moments, in particular their wedding night which is a true visual poetry on screen. Domingo beautifully highlights the typical way of a tragic hero - from victory to tragedy, from pride to humiliation, from being hailed to being doomed. Ricciarelli is a delicate dove, an innocent victim, a truly beautiful creature born under evil star. She is incredible in the scene of the prayer at the shroud of Madonna. Piety, subtlety and dignity reach exquisite harmony and surprising balance. Yet, however they differ, as it is in the classical tragedy, they both fall victims of evil scheme, of the hero's evil genius.

One line says: "Beware of jealousy!" This, unfortunately, did not apply to "Beware of an evil man!" Justino Diaz portrays Jago, a malicious man who believes in a god of vengeance...that is his creed. His demonic laughter allures all major human emotions. It is him who plants the seeds of doubt about Desdemona and her alleged lover, Cassio (Urbano Barberini) and his poison really works in the hero's mind. In one of the most powerful scenes of the movie, Jago stands at the cross in a typical Zeffirelli imagery (compare to the film about saint Francis) and, on the verge of blasphemy, he sings out in pride and vanity "Heaven is an idle tale" That scene has its continuation at Otello's oath. Zeffirelli delivers a splendid performance from Justino Diaz, the most memorable character/villain of the movie.

From the supporting cast, a mention must be made of Urbano Barberini. Here, the classical idea of beauty, sort of Michelangelo's David is evoked, in particular, at the additional scene (which Canby relates to as 'gross interruption') when Cassio is showed succumbed to the wild pleasures of erotic dreams about Desdemona. Barberini evokes a certain aspect of an innocent young man so many times depicted by Zeffirelli with its pinnacle in ROMEO AND JULIET.

With the marvelous display of visuals, aesthetic splendor and the director's standard hallmarks, Zeffirelli has never and will never win the hearts of those who are bound to criticize him. Yet, OTELLO may be forgiven its liberal treatments of the classical source and may be considered a significant film by those seeking high art on screen.


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