Filming 'Othello' (1978) Poster

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A wonderful, gentle coda to a boistrous film career.
Ben_Cheshire19 February 2004
A wonderful, private oration with Orson Welles for once talking about his vast visual artistry and visual imagery. Welles always shied away from discussing such things, that his fans would have much loved to hear. During his conversations with Peter Bogdanovich which became "This is Orson Welles," he speaks as if his visual style never had any thematic significance. It is wonderful to hear him finally talk about style and vindicate one for taking such joy in his visual motifs.

In the second half of the movie, Welles discusses the elements of the film which were dictated by practicality and necessity. Welles had to procure the funds for his Othello entirely himself, either from being paid to appear in other mens' movies, or from the odd backer who would contribute not nearly enough money. This meant production had to keep stopping and relocating across the world. Orson Welles was the first person in the history of cinema to make a movie not attached to a certain studio or even country! When it came to the Cannes film festival, Welles was stuck with what country to say the movie was of! He chose Morrocco for convenience, ironically where the character Othello was originally from. This makes Orson Welles' Othello the very first independent film, and Welles went on to become the founder of the independent film movement.

Also included is a reunion luncheon party with Hilton Edwards (Desdemona's father) and Michael Macliammoir (Iago). Following, Welles further discusses the play of Othello, performs a couple of key speeches from the play. The final segment is from a question time after a screening of Othello to film students.

As always, hearing Orson talk is marvellous to listen to. A wonderful, gentle coda to a boistrous film career.
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A Last Look into an Artist's Mind
Raxivace17 February 2014
The final film of Orson Welles is perhaps his quietest, most reflective piece of work. "Filming Othello" is not, as the title might suggest, a "making of" documentary about putting the Shakespeare play onto film. Instead it falls into the somewhat vaguely-defined "essay film" category occupied by the likes of Welles' own "F for Fake", and perhaps the documentary work of Werner Herzog. This movie mostly consists of its director talking into his camera toward the audience, and occasionally playing clips of his "Othello", past conversations with other actors, interviews, etc. Formally, this film is not the most interesting in the world (which ironically, is where Welles has largely succeeded in the past in filmmaking), but here it's the content that is truly fascinating.

Nearly thirty years after putting his own version of "Othello" onto film, here we watch Welles look back onto it, recounting both tales of the production, his own interpretations of Shakespeare's original text and discussion with others on it, reaction to the film, and finally his own wish to have made it even better than it was. If this is not concerned with how to film Shakespeare, then what "Filming Othello" is concerned with is Welles himself, and his look back at an accomplishment in his life, and with the distance from it gained by history.

This film is Welles probing his own mind, where if in "F for Fake" he shares with us his philosophy on art in general, "Filming Othello" is his philosophy on creating and thinking about his own work. And yet there's a melancholic feeling all throughout the movie as Welles calmly but quietly reviews his past work. One gets the impression that here the legendary director of "Citizen Kane" who was willing to pick a fight with powerful newspaper tycoons at the mere age of 24 has finally been humbled by history, and that he has finally acknowledged his best days are behind him.

"Good night." Those are the words that Welles speaks to us at the film's very end, and they serve as a last, sad goodbye from a great artist, lamenting that he could not have done more.
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A Drug
kurosawakira19 October 2014
I think this film is among the most fascinating there is. See, I think Orson Welles is among the greatest artists ever, in any field or time. He's a genius of light and shadow, of creating images and rhythms that not only captivate but shape the way films are made and how they're seen.

If you have been bewitched by him, as I have been, in "F for Fake" (1974), then this film is a drug, really. It's amazing to see him talk, since he's such a charismatic narrator. Indeed, I think he could talk about anything and it'd be there to listen; considering that he discusses what I think is again among the greatest achievements in art, his 1952 film "The Tragedy of Othello: The Moor of Venice" (1952). His insight into his art, and his insight into art and storytelling, also as a storyteller in the ongoing conversation, are actually something I'd recommend to be studied, because they're not only first-rate, they're inspiring.

His anecdote of him finding out "Othello" had won at Cannes is priceless, as well as that of the Turkish bath. Also Welles' remark that "one real life Iago is enough for any life", and his definition of a film director as " the man who presides over accidents, but doesn't make them."

Of course this is best served with "Othello", but I would really see "F for Fake" too. They make for a great experience, and Welles' "Macbeth" (1948) and "Chimes of Midnight" (1965), as well.

At this writing the film is available on YouTube. I suppose, as is the case with most Welles films, the rights issue is a tangle, since I haven't seen it on any DVDs.
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In Welles' last completed film (I think), he talks us through his 1952 version of Othello, giving new insights and somehow making it work.
jimjimjimjim12 June 2001
It's odd now to think of this film and know that I really did enjoy it. I had the pleasure a few years back at the Seattle Art Museum. For the most part, the film is Welles and two old friends/actors from the original film sitting around a table and talking about filming Othello and past life experiences. And somehow it worked. Which proves Welles' genius, even in these conditions he could make a great film. It looks as though it was filmed in his living room, which is a sad reminder of the treatment he got in the last 20 (40?) years of his life. Although, like most Welles fanatics, I am eagerly awaiting the chance to see "The Other Side of the Wind", this is really a film worthy of his talents and, on many levels, an appropriate last film.
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Worth Watching
Michael_Elliott13 November 2017
Filming 'Othello' (1978)

*** (out of 4)

This Orson Welles film isn't really a documentary but instead a video essay where the director talks about his film OTHELLO, the play that it was based on and various other things related to Shakespeare.

If you're familiar with the film in question then you'll know that it went through a variety of money issues and it actually took years to finish it. Welles, with that great voice, is on hand here, often just looking at the camera, as he talks about the various production issues and why the Turkish bath sequence was added to the film. He also talks about the play itself, the greatest of its words and finally he discusses how he wished the film had turned out.

If you're a fan of Welles or OTHELLO then you'll enjoy this film as there are some interesting stories told and there's no question that getting to listen to a master like Welles is a lot of fun. The highlight of the film is certainly him talking about the various money issues and the Turkish bath house was certainly quite fascinating.
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Orson Welles at his best
bastos7 August 2020
This is just a wonderful doc on the making of Orson Welles's Othello. It's basically Orson Welles telling anecdotes about Othello for one hour, but the man is so captivating, funny, intelligent, charming and charismatic that is just a joy to watch for any film buff.
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Richer Than All His Tribe
writers_reign31 August 2015
Warning: Spoilers
There are those and I am amongst them who would cheerfully listen to Orson Wells recite the Farmers Almanac, but that is because that like Richard Burton, for example, he is blessed with a magnificent vocal instrument and it is undoubtedly true that both actors - at their best unsurpassed - have more made more than their sure of clinkers. At least Welles did it in a good, nay, honourable cause, in order to generate funds to finance a series of independent productions many, sadly aborted and/or unfinished, whilst Burton just didn't care. One product that he was able to finish albeit not as he would have like was Othello and in this documentary he reminisces with a couple of the actors involved. It is impossible for Welles to bore an audience but nevertheless, I for one, a committed Welles buff, wished it were somehow more though not quite sure what was lacking, I'm pleases to have seen it but that's all.
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