Pre-opening of the 72nd Venice Film Festival on Tuesday 1 September
for the Orson Welles centennial, two “Venetian” masterpieces come back to life
09 | 01 | 2015
The Merchant of Venice (1969) and Otello (1951)
Dedicated entirely to the immortal genius of Orson Welles, for the centennial of his birth, and to two of his “Venetian” masterpieces inspired by Shakespeare and remarkably found and restored – The Merchant of Venice (1969, a film that was thought to have been lost) and Otello (1951), the Pre-Opening event of the 72nd Venice International Film Festival will take place on Tuesday September 1st in the Sala Darsena (Palazzo del Cinema) at Lido di Venezia. (photo © Oja Kodar / Cinemazero / Filmmuseum München)
The exceptional programme scheduled for September 1st in the Sala Darsena (starting at 8:30 pm) includes:
· A live performance by the Orchestra Classica di Alessandria, of the original unpublished score for The Merchant of Venice, by Angelo Francesco Lavagnino (1909-1987), the great composer of film scores and author of the music for most of the “Shakespearean” films made by Orson Welles. The score, originally written for the unfinished film, has been specifically transcribed from the only performance recorded at the time, and has never been performed in public until now.
· The world premiere screening of a new copy, reconstructed and restored by Filmmuseum München and Cinemazero, of the rediscovered film The Merchant of Venice (30’), universally considered to have been lost, which sets the Shakespearean classic in Venice, in colour, and brings it back to life thanks to the new material rediscovered by Cinemazero in Pordenone and the newly-found original script by Orson Welles in the Oja Kodar paper collection at the Special Collection library of the University of Michigan. This was a project that Orson Welles began in 1969, and left unfinished.
· The screening of the original, full-length version of Otello (Othello, 96’), restored by CSC – Cineteca Nazionale in Rome. This is the Italian version of the film, with dialogue written by Gian Gaspare Napolitano and supervised by Welles himself, which was to have been presented in Venice in September 1951, but which Welles withdrew from competition at the last minute, announcing that the copy was not ready. A new shorter version in English was presented at the Cannes Film Festival in May 1952, and won the Grand Prix. Today this rare Italian version finally comes to the Lido.
Shakespeare & Cigars
Furthermore, the 72nd Venice Film Festival (2nd – 12th September 2015) will feature the unique exhibition Shakespeare & Cigars. 12 studies for Shakespearean characters painted by Orson Welles, curated by Bianca Lavagnino and Sergio Toffetti. On exhibit are 12 wooden panels (the backs of the boxes of Orson Welles’ favourite cigars) on which in the 1960s Welles himself painted portraits in oil of a series of Shakespearean characters: Macbeth, Othello, Falstaff, Shylock…
The Merchant of Venice (1969)
The Merchant of Venice is the last Shakespeare film by Orson Welles. Conceived as a part of a TV special for American television, Welles tried to finish the film by his own, when CBS stopped its financing. Shot on location in Venice, Asolo, Rome and Trogir at the Dalmatian coast, the film combines elements of the venetian seventeenth century with key scenes of Shakespeare’s play. Already in 1960, Orson Welles declared: “My own dream part is Shakespeare’s Jew. It happens I’m a Christian (not that it matters) but I’ve always felt a special sympathy for Shylock and I’ve wanted to communicate that sympathy to a loving audience.”
In 1982 Welles claimed that „the negative was stolen in some mysterious way“, other sources report, that one sound reel get lost after a preview screening in Rome. In fact, only fragments of the film survived in the collections of Cinemazero (at La cineteca del Friuli), La Cinémathèque Française, Filmmuseum München and Cineteca di Bologna. Since only parts of the soundtrack still exist and nobody knew how Welles wanted to conclude his film, it was impossible to reconstruct the film. Thanks to the sensational discovery by Cinemazero (half on an edited working copy of the film and a reel of the mixed soundtrack), to the recently found original script and to the notes of composer Maestro Angelo Francesco Lavagnino, now for the first time ever, the film can be presented to the public. The lost sound of the last part of the film has been substituted by a few intertitles and sound recordings of Welles's play. The extremely complicated and most unusual reconstruction work was done by Cinemazero and Filmmuseum München.
To discover is one of the most brilliant performances by Orson Welles in the beautiful Venetian settings with one of the best scores of Angelo Franceso Lavagnino who also composed the music for Orson Welles’ Othello and Falstaff.
In September 1951, Orson Welles’ Otello was in the line-up of the Venice International Film Festival. It was the Italian version of the film, the longest, with dialogues written by Gian Gaspare Napolitano under the supervision of Welles himself.
This was to be the world premiere screening. But it never took place. Welles called a press conference and forlornly announced that the copy was not ready. The film was withdrawn from the competition and a new shorter version, in English, was presented at the Cannes Film Festival the following May, winning the Grand Prix.
Today that rare Italian version of the film finally comes to the Lido, to mark the centennial of the birth of Orson Welles, in a version restored by the CSC – Cineteca Nazionale, for the pre-opening event of the 72nd Venice International Film Festival, Tuesday September 1st.
For the centennial, the CSC – Cineteca Nazionale has also published a book entitled L’Otello senz’acca. Orson Welles nel fondo Oberdan Troiani by Alberto Anile, which tells the story of the Italian version of Othello and the vicissitudes of one of the most adventurous projects in the history of the cinema.