I have been a fan of Mr. Rosenbaum’s writing for more than a year now and treasure his contribution to film criticism greatly. It is so refreshing to find someone with such an informed and unique take on cinema, a viewpoint that doesn’t bow reverently to “classics” by virtue of their sacred-cow nature, but instead regards them soberly and intelligently. I was reading his piece on Welles’s Othello in his book, I think it was Movies as Politics, and his other Welles pieces in one of his other books, Placing Movies. I also was fortunate to catch his capsule review of Welles’s The Trial, one of the few pieces to give the film its due. I noticed that there was a new 35-millimeter print of The Trial being shown there in Chicago. I live in San Diego and have never had the opportunity to see The Trial in a theater, only on a remastered DVD. I also remember his misgivings about the Othello restoration. Is there any way that one of the un-“remastered” prints of Othello and the newly remastered The Trial will ever be seen again? I would love to see them in a theater in San Diego; would Mr. Rosenbaum, being probably the world’s foremost champion and authority on Welles’s work, know if this will ever happen?
Jonathan Rosenbaum replies:
Regarding the unremastered Othello, this all depends on Beatrice Welles, Welles’s youngest daughter, who has the rights to the film and makes it difficult for anyone who tries to show the original version, without the alterations she authorized–including Chicago’s Doc Films when it showed the original a few years ago. (I don’t know if she’s claiming any rights to The Trial, but since she doesn’t have a version of her own in release, it probably isn’t an issue.) Criterion issued the original version of Othello on laser disc a few years ago until she got them to take it off the market with legal threats. A pity. The best account of her revised version can be found in Michael Anderegg’s recent and excellent book Orson Welles, Shakespeare, and Popular Culture–a much more comprehensive analysis than what I have to offer in my essay on Othello, which is actually in Placing Movies.