Movie Diary 6/30/2020

Macbeth (Orson Welles, 1948). Even within the limited budget, there are many exciting moments in Welles’ grimy, studio-bound version of the play. The long take on the night of Duncan’s murder is fascinating to watch, not just for the technical bravura but for its neck-bending sense of disaster unfolding at dangerous angles. I can’t say this is one of Welles’ better performances, but his willingness to portray weak, overwhelmed characters is total.

Macbeth (Roman Polanski, 1971). The blu-ray is an eye-filling experience, from the dazzling opening shot on a beach to the final misty eternal-return ending. When it came out, people talked about how blood-soaked it was, but at least as notable is how Polanski tracks the play’s many references to time of day and season, catching the way day is always sliding into night or how dawn can fill a room with red light. Lots of eerie enchantments on display, not just with eyeless witches and the like but also the way thousands of soldiers suddenly manifest themselves on a distant hillside. Jon Finch and Francesca Annis somehow seem to recede from the action (although her spaciness is interesting), which fits the vision of the Macbeths as a rather pathetic pair of second-rate strivers.