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Film review: Tragedy of Othello: Moor of Venice, The

"The Tragedy of Othello: 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.