Friday, February 10, 2006
The Lady From Shanghai
The Lady From Shanghai (Orson Welles, 1947) 
This often seems to be a forgotten Welles film, but I think it’s a nice little noir that has some really interesting qualities. Like other Welles’ films, this one was significantly recut by the studio against his wishes, and it shows especially in the overdramatic score and shaky transitions. But the essential nature of the film survives. Welles plays a man who can’t really be considered a hero. He’s more a boob that gets into a situation he knew was no good. He even says it in his narration. I feel that the narration is really a plus. It places Welles’ character as an outsider to the privilege and corruption that the rich characters inhabit. He knows better than to get pulled into a bad situation by a woman, but he can’t resist the smoldering Rita Hayworth. The standard noir fare of murder and double-crossing follow, ending up in the much mimicked house of mirrors sequence. That scene is a bit of a metaphor for the entire film: you can’t really tell who a character really is.