Considerable controversy has surrounded the 1992 restoration and re-release of Orson Welles' "Othello." First, the film was wrongly labelled a "lost classic" - not technically true, as Welles aficionados will realize. More seriously, the restoration crew (under the aegis of Welles' daughter, Beatrice Welles) re-synced the dialogue and re-recorded the musical score - an abomination to Welles purists. While it would have been preferable to adhere to Welles' vision for the film, such an endeavor becomes extremely difficult when no written record of Welles' intent exists (as it did with his famous 26-page memo to Universal regarding "Touch of Evil"). So it's true that the restored version lacks a degree of authenticity, but what are the alternatives? Grainy, scratched, poorly synced public domain prints (c.f. "Mr Arkadin" and "The Trial")? Or, worse, no available copy at all (c.f. "Chimes at Midnight")?
Anyway, on to the film. "Othello's" existence helps disprove the charges of profligacy and "fear of completion" that plagued Welles' career after "Citizen Kane." Shot over four years in Morocco and Italy, and financed largely by Welles himself, "Othello" manages to avoid a low-budget look, thanks largely to virtuoso editing that masks the incongruities of time and space. Welles' powers of invention are on full display here, most obviously in the famous Turkish bath scene (an improvised set necessitated by a lack of costumes). Set designer Alexandre Trauner's astute choice of Moroccan and Venetian locations instantly establishes a geographic authenticity; Welles initially exploits them for all their stark beauty before retreating into noirish interiors, underscoring Othello's descent into darkness.
Aside from Michael Macliammoir's chilling Method performance as Iago, the acting in Welles' "Othello" has been criticized as too restrained and modulated for Shakespearean tragedy. Such criticism is largely unwarranted, for this "Othello" is as much for the eyes as the ears: Welles' bold framing and expressionistic camera angles free the play from its theatrical moorings (pun intended), undermining the need for stage elocution. Indeed, the camera is the true star of this film, as Welles generates images that match the grandeur and eloquence of Shakespeare's language.