Friday 18 June 2010

The Lady from Shanghai [1947]

The Lady from Shanghai was the movie that wrecked Orson Welles’ reputation and nearly destroyed his career as a filmmaker in Hollywood. The film, considered too Byzantine by the studio bosses and a commercial failure upon its release, however remains one of the most important works of Welles. The noir stars Welles as an Irish seaman who falls heads over heels with a beautiful and seemingly soft natured damsel-in-distress (iconically played by Rita Hayworth) after saving her from muggers. Later, after given work by her invalid but wealthy husband, he keeps up their clandestine affair, completely oblivious of the fact he is being set up to be a fall guy all the while in her grand scheme of things. Though never as nightmarish or taut as his later Touch of Evil, and even bordering on theatrics and melodrama at times, this at-times uneven movie nonetheless has an air of melancholy, lost love and sad resignation all over it, brought through by the cynical yet lilting voiceover of our flawed anti-hero. The fact that Welles and Hayworth’s marriage was on the rocks and they were soon to get divorced, has only added a layer of cruel irony to the film’s unforgettable “hall of mirrors” climax and its fatalistic finale, immortalized by the bleak parting shot, “Maybe I'll live so long that I'll forget her. Maybe I'll die trying."

Director: Orson Welles
Genre: Film Noir/Romantic Noir/Crime Thriller/Mystery
Language: English
Country: US


Anonymous said...

This is five star for me. I love Orson's stylistic flourishes throughout. I can see why some would rank this lower as it does have some minor unevenness. Still watching this back to back with another noir by a more pedestrian director like say...Henry Hathaway, shows the incredible talent Welles possessed. His mise en scene is never dull and always bursting with perfect visualization......M.Roca

Shubhajit said...

I'm completely with you where Orson Welles' stylistic flourishes & visualization are concerned. His films are great to the senses. The middle part of the film, however, was a bit of a downer, especially given the incredible beginning & climax. And the overacting bit in the courtroom scene could have been avoided. It thus somehow failed to affect me in the way the movies I give 5-star ratings do. I do appreciate and respect your opinion though.