King Lear in its TV attire is amazing
Jacques COULARDEAU | OLLIERGUES France | 03/17/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Orson Welles had to live, or rather survive all his life or nearly. He managed to find in television the means to earn the income he needed to be able to remain ready to do some of the most beautiful films ever produced. This here King Lear is such a survival buoy in the hard life of a rejected genius. With no financial budget of any consequence, with so few actors and just as few extras, with nothing but a stage and little decoration, he manages to produce a rather touching rendition of King Lear. The play is reduced to its essential framework and 73 minutes but Orson Welles, as King Lear, is quite convincing in his suffering and in his madness. It was when television was still being incubated and nursed into being an original medium and at that time producers considered it as being another form of theater and were led to producing all kinds of classical plays for this little screen. That's how Shakespeare reached full generations of Americans. But Peter Brook and Orson Welles knew this small screen could not be the big one, and his production is quite adapted to it. The shooting is more centered on the characters, even on their faces and heads, and all superfluous props are avoided not to encumber the screen with distracting details. Even the acting is adapted to that small screen and Orson Welles avoid any kind of rash or brusque gesture that could not find any amplitude. That makes the play extremely emotional and it probably erases the real political meaning, the fight between the crown of England and that of France, already. The introduction of the time is funny with presenting King Lear as being a Celtic king. I would have believed we were not that far in history and were only dealing with the Anglo-Saxons, one or two centuries before William the Conqueror. The two advertisements from the two sponsors are admirable, and it is a very good thing to have kept the TV show in its original shape.
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU, University Paris Dauphine, University Paris 1 Pantheon Sorbonne & University Versailles Saint Quentin en Yvelines
John Ellis | New York, NY United States | 08/09/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This budget issue has an inferior quality "Stranger" (much better on the official label issue); and the Peter Brook (very early) directed television production of "King Lear", heavily cut, is very interesting to serious Welles and Shakespeare admirers though under the circumstance it could only be so good. A black and white kinescope transfer, shot it seems live in one take as most 50s TV dramas were, that's no way to scale the heights a la Olivier's brilliant performance late in his career (a production that suffered a bit from budget restrictions too). Welles is a Teutonic, Old Testament Lear - close to one fierce angry note with a straight plunge off the cliff - but monochrome doesn't mean dull. It would have been very interesting to see him in a color production of his own direction with the time both on screen and in the shooting to explore nuance because he's got lots to bring to the role, but you see some of it here, a shadow of the stage production he did (where he broke his foot and spent most of the run reading stories from a wheelchair). It would be nice if we had as much of Olivier's triumphant MacBeth, which he was never allowed to film."