The Lady From Shanghai
One of the oddest movies I’ve ever seen, and now an acknowledged classic by Orson Welles. This is in spite the fact that much of what Rita Hayworth says is whispered so quietly I couldn’t hear it with the sound cranked up to eleven, and much of what Welles has to say is in an unintelligible “Irish” accent, and in spite of the plot, which is incomprehensible. Don’t take my word for it. This is from Wikipedia: “When he saw the rushes, [Columbia Pictures President Harry] Cohn detested the picture; he couldn’t figure out what it was about and offered $1000 to anyone who could explain it to him. Even Welles could not explain the plot to him.” Of course, it might have been slightly easier to understand before Cohn had an hour cut from the original version. And that’s a tragedy, because even though I don’t really believe Welles’s version would have made much more sense, every frame of this movie is at least interesting, and often brilliant. The composition of shots is amazing. High and low angles, things very close in the foreground, and of course, the literally shattering conclusion in the House of Mirrors in San Francisco’s Playland. Watch how Everett Sloane oozes from mirror to mirror on his canes, or how an extreme close-up of Rita Hayworth is superposed on an angle shot of Welles and Sloane. But even before that the use of light and shadow here is the very essence of film noir. Even the scenes in bright sunlight on the yacht (which belonged to Errol Flynn) seem dark and sinister. Most of the actors give bizarre performances in interesting ways. They all have tics, or insane eyes, or crazy laughs. And nobody could stage a scene like Orson Welles. He was way ahead of Robert Altman in the use of overlapping dialogue, and many scenes are interrupted by little bits of business that have nothing to do with anything, but keep your attention. I have to add that though the courtroom scene was not as wildly impossible as the worst courtroom scene ever filmed (that would be Vincent Price in Leave Her to Heaven), it is pretty laughable.