Don Quixote is an unfinished film project produced, written and directed by Orson Welles. Principal photography took place between 1957 and 1969. Test footage was filmed as early as 1955, ... See full summary »
After reading too many novels about knights and heroic stories, Don Quijote and his servant Sancho Panza decide to wander the roads of Spain to protect the weak and to accomplish good deeds. But the real world is not as magical and fairy as Don Quijote imagines it to be. Following the plot of Cervantes classical book, Don Quijote fights with windmills thinking they are giants but unluckily, he manages to be defeated by them. Written by
Cyril Aubaud (firstname.lastname@example.org)
(This review is based on the English language version)
Orson Welles' legendary unfinished epic was just that - unfinished. It should have been left as such, not thrown together in this clumsy, boring compilation of whatever material was available.
While I'm sure it was done with the best of intentions, the filmmakers have not only failed to do justice to Welles' vision, they've also managed to discredit it by inflicting this version upon audiences.
The first thing that strikes the viewer is the amateurish quality of the audio. Not only are the newly dubbed voices rather poor performances, they're also inconsistent - Welles' original recordings (using his own voice, as he often did) have been retained in a handful of scenes, & they don't match at all. There hasn't been the slightest attempt at consistency. Add to that an extremely empty sound mix which has only a bare minimum of sound effects & atmos - a long sequence during a huge festival (including the running of the bulls) sounds like it was recorded in a deserted suburban street with about three people making the sound of a crowd that's meant to be in the thousands.
However, the real problem is the unavoidable fact that 'Don Quixote' was incomplete, & it's glaringly obvious from watching this. The film consists of a handful of scenes strung together & dragged out to ridiculous lengths just to make up the running time. Case in point - the sequence where Sancho searches for Don Quixote in the city goes on forever. It's just Sancho approaching people in the crowd, asking them the same questions over & over again - there is no way that Welles could ever have intended using every single take in its entirety, but that's what appears here. It lasts over twelve minutes, when, in fact, it would most likely have lasted about two minutes absolute maximum in a proper finished version of the film.
While the start of the film is relatively complete & rather well done, the rest has massive holes which simply can't be filled with endless overlay of Spanish countryside & still more shots of Don Quixote & Sancho going back & forth. There's also no ending. No resolution, no conclusion, no punchline, no point.
Although there is material in private collections that was unavailable to the filmmakers, that couldn't possibly account for what would be required to make this into a complete, coherent work. Welles simply didn't complete shooting, largely due to the fact that his lead actor died before they could finish.
However, putting aside the fact that it wasn't complete, & never could be, one would think that just seeing a collection of footage from this masterpiece that might have been would be enough. Unfortunately, by putting it all together in such a slipshod manner, one is left with a very negative impression of the film overall. In particular, what was clearly a terrific performance from Akim Tamiroff as Sancho is utterly ruined with the new voice & with long, drawn out scenes that eventually cause him to be simply irritating.
Orson Welles' vision for this film was something far more ambitious & complex than a simple retelling of the story of Don Quixote, but that's what has been attempted here, & as such, the point is lost. The only person who could have assembled all the material into anything worthwhile would have been Welles himself, & he didn't.
The footage could have been put to far better use in a documentary chronicling the whole saga of Welles trying to make the film. Welles himself even came up with the perfect title for such a doco: "When Are You Going To Finish Don Quixote?"
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