Two oldies returned to Salt Lake Theaters Friday, both having been restored to their former glory - or perhaps to the glory that was originally intended but somehow was missed.
- "THE TRAGEDY OF OTHELLO: THE MOOR OF VENICE" is Orson Welles' stirring, if truncated adaptation of the Shakespeare tragedy, which he began preparing in 1948 and filmed over the course of the next year, on and off, shooting on location in Rome, Venice and Morocco. Welles was unable to complete the film, however, until 1952, due to financial troubles.The finished product won a top award at the 1952 Cannes Film Festival, yet it was still plagued with technical difficulties, primarily in the soundtrack, and Welles' "Othello" received only a marginal American release and virtually disappeared.
With the aid of modern technology, the film has now been restored to what Welles more likely intended (though it is a scant 91 minutes) and though his trouble-plagued working conditions show through the seams and there are still some technical glitches here and there, this "Othello" is an amazing tribute to Welles' enormous talent.
Welles adapted the play, directed the film and starred in the title role as the doomed Moor of Venice who is betrayed by his close associate Iago into thinking his lovely wife Desdemona has cheated behind his back and lied about it.
Welles makes a formidable Othello and his supporting cast - Suzanne Cloutier, Micheal Mac Liammoir and Robert Coote, as Desdemona, Iago and Roderigo, respectively - are also quite good.
But what makes the film important is Welles' camera work, which continually belies his battles with budget, lack of costumes, inferior equipment and other frustrating delays. With Welles' marvelous eye for composition, positioning actors and his use of shadow and light, less is more.
Any film student who hasn't seen this film has not completed his education. And for the rest of us, this "Othello" is a fascinating film with moments of great power.
- "BLADE RUNNER" has a different, perhaps more typical history. When Ridley Scott turned in the movie in 1982 it was rejected by the studio, which went forward with a number of changes.
This "restored" version of "Blade Runner," released for the film's 10th anniversary - and because Scott has gone on to even greater success, especially with last year's multiple Oscar-nominated "Thelma & Louise" - is merely Scott's return to making the film represent his view.
"Blade Runner" is based on a Phillip K. Dick story and has Harrison Ford as an assassin of runaway androids in the future, which is seedy, rainy 2019 Los Angeles. The special effects and production design remain astonishing and there are several supporting actors who have gone on to greater fame - Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Edward James Olmos and Joanna Cassidy.
The most noticeable change is the removal of the original film's obtrusive voice-over narration by Ford, which always seemed redundant with the action. It is not missed.
Scott has also added a fantasy image of a white unicorn that ties into the film's final moment, as Ford picks up a paper unicorn shaped by Olmos' character. And he's lopped off the "happy ending," which had Ford and Young flying off into the sunset, allowing a more ambiguous tone in the end. The biggest surprise comes in the moment when Hauer confronts his maker. Scott has toned down the gore, virtually eliminating the gushing blood that is in the original version.
All of these elements do improve the film, but it remains a very dark and far too long thriller with many dull moments that would serve the film better by moving along a bit faster.
The most enjoyable aspect, however, is seeing all those astonishing special effects on the big screen. If you want a front-row example of how much movies lose when they go to video, watch "Blade Runner" on TV then go see it in the theater. There's no comparison.
"Blade Runner" is rated R for violence, profanity, nudity and sex.