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Those who dismiss this reconstructed film out-of-hand cannot possibly
have any appreciation of Welles' genius. The reviewer who calls it a
"dog's dinner" is obviously reacting to the unusual and non-linear
qualities of Welles' later films. I doubt that he can know very much
about either Welles or Quijote. In any case, he fails to see the forest
from the trees. Of course there are some scenes and shots in this
incomplete film that go nowhere-- BUT this is still the most beautiful,
exhilariting, and cinematic version of Cervantes yet put to film. I
don't doubt that the film would be better if Welles had been able to
finish editing it himself. But even as it is, the great director left
his mark on each and every surviving scene. Visually speaking, the film
is simply too similar to 'The Trial' and other late Welles classics to
The film centers around the idea of Don Quixote (and Sancho) trying to stick to their guns in the midst of the great confusion of modern-day Spain. Such a conceit is absolutely typical of Welles, as are all the other major departures from the novel. Welles was not known for faithfulness. But there are also scenes of pure character drama, and they play so well as to make us believe that Cervantes had written them; Welles was, after all, among the greatest of screenwriters.
Not the least of his triumphs here is in the casting: Akim Tamiroff, one of the screen's greatest and most unsung actors, was born to play Sancho and he does not disappoint. Francisco Reiguera looks and acts more like Cervantes' Knight than any other. Again, the other reviewers fail to appreciate this.
If the film has any really major flaw (apart from the awful English dubbing), it is the additional dialog written by Jess Franco, who was Welles' A.D. on this film. Of course it is difficult to identify, but I take it that most of the dialog is Welles'. The film also goes on too long concerning bull-fighting, but of course this was one of Welles' fascinations and it is probably at least partly his fault.
The real reason this film has been ignored is because a lot of people crave conventional narrative cinema so badly that they deride cinematic art unless it has a "artist's brand name" attached to it. Since Welles' is not entirely responsible for the final cut as we have it, a lot of people feel that its 'fair game' in a way that his other films are not. Well, if you can't stand genius, then stay away from it-- you'll only embarrass yourself trying to deride it.
BEWARE THE English-LANGUAGE DUBBING. Welles obviously never did an English dub of this footage, and the one that is supplied by Welles' reconstructors is a total injustice to the film. It is far better to stick it out with the Spanish track and French sub-titles, even if you don't know a word of French. At least you'll have an idea of the quality of some of the scenes. HOPEFULLY we will see a DVD of this in the US with English subtitles.
Perhaps some further reconstruction is also still possible? BUT it will only happen if Welles fans are supportive of the footage the Welles did indeed achieve.
(This review is based on the English language version)
Orson Welles' legendary unfinished epic was just that - unfinished. It should have been left as such, not thrown together in this clumsy, boring compilation of whatever material was available.
While I'm sure it was done with the best of intentions, the filmmakers have not only failed to do justice to Welles' vision, they've also managed to discredit it by inflicting this version upon audiences.
The first thing that strikes the viewer is the amateurish quality of the audio. Not only are the newly dubbed voices rather poor performances, they're also inconsistent - Welles' original recordings (using his own voice, as he often did) have been retained in a handful of scenes, & they don't match at all. There hasn't been the slightest attempt at consistency. Add to that an extremely empty sound mix which has only a bare minimum of sound effects & atmos - a long sequence during a huge festival (including the running of the bulls) sounds like it was recorded in a deserted suburban street with about three people making the sound of a crowd that's meant to be in the thousands.
However, the real problem is the unavoidable fact that 'Don Quixote' was incomplete, & it's glaringly obvious from watching this. The film consists of a handful of scenes strung together & dragged out to ridiculous lengths just to make up the running time. Case in point - the sequence where Sancho searches for Don Quixote in the city goes on forever. It's just Sancho approaching people in the crowd, asking them the same questions over & over again - there is no way that Welles could ever have intended using every single take in its entirety, but that's what appears here. It lasts over twelve minutes, when, in fact, it would most likely have lasted about two minutes absolute maximum in a proper finished version of the film.
While the start of the film is relatively complete & rather well done, the rest has massive holes which simply can't be filled with endless overlay of Spanish countryside & still more shots of Don Quixote & Sancho going back & forth. There's also no ending. No resolution, no conclusion, no punchline, no point.
Although there is material in private collections that was unavailable to the filmmakers, that couldn't possibly account for what would be required to make this into a complete, coherent work. Welles simply didn't complete shooting, largely due to the fact that his lead actor died before they could finish.
However, putting aside the fact that it wasn't complete, & never could be, one would think that just seeing a collection of footage from this masterpiece that might have been would be enough. Unfortunately, by putting it all together in such a slipshod manner, one is left with a very negative impression of the film overall. In particular, what was clearly a terrific performance from Akim Tamiroff as Sancho is utterly ruined with the new voice & with long, drawn out scenes that eventually cause him to be simply irritating.
Orson Welles' vision for this film was something far more ambitious & complex than a simple retelling of the story of Don Quixote, but that's what has been attempted here, & as such, the point is lost. The only person who could have assembled all the material into anything worthwhile would have been Welles himself, & he didn't.
The footage could have been put to far better use in a documentary chronicling the whole saga of Welles trying to make the film. Welles himself even came up with the perfect title for such a doco: "When Are You Going To Finish Don Quixote?"
I have only seen Franco's release and this was indeed very poorly dubbed and a lot of the footage was barely distinguishable. Maybe Welles' cherished project should have remained a legend because as it is the movie doesn't stand for its own as more than a curiosity. But it is interesting nonetheless for the glimpse it offers in the process of film-making. Seeing as it was started sometime in the mid-fifties and took almost fourteen years of shooting until the main character unfortunately died, the movie shows the meanders it passed until it reached the form in which we can see it today. In my opinion Welles started shooting the movie with the idea of bringing Don Quixote to the screen in much the same way he had already done it with Macbeth and Othello. Unfortunately he got so tangled in the web of the story that he released there was no way that he could bring the book to the screen as it was and so he had to "adapt" it in his own magnificent personal style, much like he will do it with Falstaff. The result is an amazing story that challenges film as a medium and brings it closer to postmodern literature. What I find fascinating is the idea that Welles himself would appear in the movie that he is making, talk to the character of Sancho who desperately looks for his master and ignore him. In the movie Welles as himself makes a movie about Don Quixote but he is unwilling to listen to the character! Amazing! Welles was undoubtedly one of cinema's geniuses not only because his unique style involving extreme angles, deep focus, sequences and all that jazz, but also because he anticipated some of the concepts that will make history in later cinema. It is interesting to see that it was Welles who first understood the capacity of cinema to create illusion and play tricks, not Godard or Bergman or Jodorovsky. Of course, since his project was never released during his lifetime nobody could really acknowledge this. But I have to disagree with the people who claim this movie shouldn't even be seen, I think it should be seen by anyone seriously interested in Welles because it shows you what a great potential he really had, what a strong artistic integrity he had relentlessly going his own way, and how well he understood cinema. Seeing this movie as a link between his first two Shakespeare movie and his magnificent adaptation of Falstaff and the later F for Fake proves that Welles had a coherent career, even if hindered by penury and misunderstanding.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I really cannot judge the film that was finished by Mr. Jesus Franco,
but I did have some luck tonight in finding the missing "movie house"
sequence that Welles shot with Patty McCormick, Francisco Reguiera, and
Akim Tamiroff on "You Tube". It is easily worth watching, although it
leaves one wondering about the actual final film had Welles finished
He was modernizing the novel by Cervantes. In that novel Quixote and Sancho see a puppet show and Quixote thinks he is being threatened by an enchanter, so he smashes the puppets. Here, Sancho has gotten separated from his master and enters a movie house. He is unaware of where the Don is, but finally sees him in a corner watching the film on screen. Sancho is obviously not at home in a movie house, and he is annoying the patrons by interfering with their views of the screen. Finally Patty McCormick (playing "Dulcie" - short for Dulcinea) gives Sancho the seat next to her to sit in. She is sucking a lollipop, and gives him one. He starts eating it without removing it's paper cover. She explains he is doing it wrong, and shows him how to take it off. Sancho now starts sucking his lollipop carefully and watching the "epic" movie on screen.
It is, unfortunately, a "sand and sandal" epic involving a scene with the Crucifixion of Christ. We cut frequently to the same intent stare in Riguiera's face as he looks at the screen - a curious stare as it is both childlike in it's wonder at watching the film, but determined. Soon he rises and advances to the screen (where an armed battle is occurring. We watch him start parrying with his sword, and slicing into the screen. The audience is furious but they don't attack him - they are frightened at the old man, and flee (except for Sancho and Dulcie...and the children on the top tier of the theater who are applauding the Don's destruction of the enemies. The scene ends with him having apparently won - the screen is in tatters, but his final thrusts seemed to be at the enemy who is vanquished.
The entire sequence ran about eight minutes. It lacks any sound track, which is unfortunate as we can't tell what is being said. Yet for a pantomime production (in this scene) it was a worthy piece of work after all, and I am glad it is available to see on a small screen.
Orson Welles legendary project is nigh on impossible to find here, but
I did have the good fortune to attend a free screening. Including
myself and my wife there must have been all of eight people in the
Welles interpretation of Quixote is peculiarly reminiscent of some of the illustrations of Gustave Doré (and to a lesser extent Salvador Dali) of Cervantes' masterpiece. I thought this an attractive approach, as it indicated a degree of recognition for others who had explored this fascinating work.
Given the wild fluctuations in film stock and equipment, the film is at times somewhat difficult to watch: but these sudden transitions are only a little more extreme than in F for Fake. The travelogue like sequences toward the end of the film are also a little jarring, but do give some indication of Welles fascination with Spain.
As a student of film, or as a student of Welles you should try to see this flawed film. It's great moments far outshine the weaknesses. I am not an Orson Welles fan, but I certainly prefer this to The Lady from Shanghai. If you are not interested in Welles or film history you will probably be disappointed. As with F for Fake, there is little of the slickness we associate with Welles films.
I didn't know this film existed till I was intrigued to find it available on DVD. Mine is the Spanish version, with even Orson dubbed into Spanish. Under-edited it is far too long (almost 3 hours!) and, thrilling though the bull run in Pamplona undoubtedly is, Sancho P's quest for the 'box' (TV) is wearisomely protracted - likewise his dance on his return to his home town. However,Tamiroff plays him to perfection as does Reiguera as an 'El Greco' Quixote, and the essence of Cervantes' picaresque saga is there. The print is variable, but the Spanish exteriors, especially in the countryside, are ravishing. Bravo, Orson!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
As a quite a fan of many the works of Welles (but not unconditional, as I
bored by 'The Stranger' and puzzled by 'Confidential Report', relatively
lukewarm about the Scottish one) I find it quite emotional watching
piecing together of this much loved project of Orson Welles; a film he
fourteen years making.
He made enough masterpieces of course (Touch of Evil, The Trial, Othello and of course that ever so famous one), but to see here the mixed footage and voices (three for at least one character) is both spooky and strangely exhilarating: like looking into some Egyptian tomb somewhere.
While others have questioned this project's right to be (that is the project available on Spanish DVD not of the original plan) I for one am very happy to have it available to view on my DVD machine. Some of the scenes obviously look a little amateurish/lo-fi (e.g. the poor expanding windmills out of a brief moment in effects prior to the advent of CGI) others are beautifully realised (in the aforementioned mixed footage), like the scenes of Akim Tamirof running around modern day Italian streets searching for Quixote and seeing rockets going to the moon as reported on the television screens in disinterested bars. I also love the scene where he finds (SPOILER) Quixote in a cage in an alleyway, where the shot reverse-shots mirrors those famous disjunctures of Othello. These spatial elisions seem to work beautifully.
Finally there is something charming about the mixture of footage in and of itself; something I imagine Welles was turning around within the act of creation, not only in the poor quality of the footage now remaining. He famously turned negatives into positives so making production nightmares like costume (Othello) and location (The Trial) into real, abiding and innevitable textual strengths. This I believe he would have done beautifully given the chance of 'completion'.
I suppose however the death of your main actor through age related illness proved insurmountable obstacle for him. At least all was not lost, and of what remains, all fans of Welles should cherish.
With Jesus Franco providing additional dialog, we might expect some
gore, and blood and nudity in this version of Don Quixote. No, he just
provided needed dialog to complete this film that was 10 years work of
Orson Welles, and not completed before he died.
As far as I know there is no English subtitled version of this film, so you either see it in Spanish and French, or suffer through the dubbed version, as this is. No matter, to see any work of Orson Welles is to see real art. Despite the dubbing and the fact that Welles himself was not able to finish this, it is still worth seeing.
Francisco Reiguera acted in well over 100 films before he died, and there is no doubt that he is Don Quixote. He is a joy to watch as a knight seeking his dream in a semi-modern Spain. When he comes upon a Holy Week celebration (not a Klan rally to the uninitiated), the action is nothing short of hilarious.
Akim Tamiroff, who plays Sancho Panzo has two Oscar nominations (The General Died at Dawn, For Whom the Bell Tolls) among his 150 films, and a Golden Globe for For Whom the Bell Tools. He is magnificent in this role.
Needless to say, for Welles addicts, this is a religious experience and should be viewed with the reverence it deserves.
Only when one hear Welles narration on the soundtrack of this dog's
film, does one get a tiny glimpse of what Welles might have been able to
achieve in bringing "Don Quixote" to the screen.
From what I saw last night on DVD (purchased by a friend recently in
my guess is that "Don Quixote" is unfilmable, even by a genius like
The 'director', Jess Franco', is no Welles, to be sure. Where and how
his hands on this footage, is as mysterious as Welles himself.
over a number of years, the assembled footage, is a mish mash of stills,
unrelated footage, an out-of-sync sound track (scenes of Welles in a car
shooting footage like an enthusiastic tourist), and ludicrously dubbed
voices, makes this just a slice of arcane interest.
In summary, it was 'interesting' to see, but at the end of the day, it
tarnish Welle's reputation, rather than enhance it.
Still, with 'Citizen Kane', the truncated "Magnificent Ambersons", &
Midnight", to his credit, Welles really doesn't need this kind of
This Orson Welles' version of "Don Quixote" may be interesting to fans
of Welles or the novel. But I don't think it will convert anyone not
already so into being either.
Things start out promising - exposition is handled quickly, and soon Don Quixote and Sancho Panza are off on their quest, Sancho grumbling all the way. Quixote declares his love for Dulcinea, despite Sancho's insistence she's an unattractive farm girl whose breath reeks of onions. Quixote battles a couple of his legendary adversaries, including the "monster" windmills. It's all realized well; the characters, portrayed with believability, come to life. We're willing to suspend disbelief for a few technical issues, like speech not matching lips, because Welles' unique style is working, using wide lenses, low angles and quirky editing rhythms to establish characters and setting in a way that lets us believe we're there.
That's the first 30 or 40 minutes.
The fun dwindles away rapidly when Welles inserts himself as a character, a famous (and "fat") filmmaker making a movie of Don Quixote.
For one thing, it undercuts the fictional world the earlier parts made endearing to us. For another, Don Quixote's story is pretty much abandoned from here on out, and the other story line - perhaps meant to be artistic, modern, self-reflective - goes absolutely nowhere, taking forever to do so. Welles never even encounters Quixote; the 'filmmaker' narrative line lacks any emotional or dramatic impact. It felt like wandering through a weekend art fair with no intention to buy a painting, and seeing nothing you liked anyway.
It sort of brings home how much is missing in terms of story to realize that any children's book-adaptation running even 10 pages long does a more complete job of telling the tale than what we get here - for instance, Dulcinea is never seen. Not that we should demand literal translations of favorite books - especially one over 1,000 pages long like "Don Quixote" - but there is too much missing, I feel, for things to succeed; we're left feeling uninvolved.
I deliberately didn't read about the troubled history of the production, although I'd heard some, because I don't think watching a movie should be like being a teacher flipping through notes before deciding if absences are excused or not. As playwrights say, if it ain't on the page, it ain't on the stage; I prefer to evaluate movies in and of themselves.
The themes Cervantes explored in his book are barely touched on, if at all, no doubt from most of the story not being told.
I prefer to forget the second half and stay out on the Spanish countrysides with Don Quixote, Sancho, and Welles, still hopeful of saving the world from evil, still wanting to get this story in the can. I didn't regret watching it, but did wonder how such an incomplete story could stretch to 115 minutes.
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