Othello | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader
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Orson Welles's 1952 independent feature is finally back in circulation, looking better than ever thanks to restoration work, but also sounding quite different because of the restorers' debatable decision to redo the brilliant score and sound effects in stereo. For all the liberties taken with the play, this may well be the greatest of all Shakespeare films (Welles's later Chimes at Midnight is the only other contender)--a brooding expressionist dream of the play shot in eerie Moorish locations in Morocco and Italy over nearly three years, yet held together by a remarkably cohesive style and atmosphere (and beautifully shot by Anchisi Brizzi, G.R. Aldo, and George Fanto). Welles, despite his misleading reputation in the U.S. as a Hollywood filmmaker, made about 75 percent of his films as a fly-by-night independent in order to regain the artistic control he'd had on Citizen Kane; Othello, the first of these features, is, arguably, an even more important film in his career than Kane, since it inaugurated the more fragmented shooting style that dominates his subsequent work. The most impressive performance here is that of Micheal MacLiammoir as Iago; Welles's own underplaying of the title role meshes well with the somnambulistic mood, but apart from some magnificent line readings makes less of a dramatic impression. With Suzanne Cloutier (as Desdemona), Robert Coote, Fay Compton, Doris Dowling, and Michael Laurence. (Music Box, Friday through Saturday, May 15 through 21)

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