Saturday, September 17, 2011
Welles family outing
The Lady from Shanghai is a film noir that Orson Welles made with himself and then-wife Rita Hayworth in the leads. If you know anything about the genre, you can guess that they won't be playing one of those happy ending couples.
He's an Irish sailor, and Welles overdoes the brogue a wee bit when the movie starts, toning it down as he goes along. Her husband (yep, warning #1) hires him to work on their yacht. Welles is unable, largely because of his own nature, to stay out of their bacstabbing and headgames. These also involve the husband's law partner, who says he wants to be murdered.
The word on this movie is that Welles took on the directing job because he needed money to finish a play he was working on, and that he chose to adopt a novel he hadn't yet read. If this haphazard way of choosing the project shows, it's not because the film is bad, because it's not. In 1947, though, Welles already seems to have been bored with the genre elements of cheating spouses and elaborate capers. He shows more interest in creating dreamy set-pieces.
The Lady from Shanghai really comes alive when they're out on the yacht, in Mexico, and the wacky partner is singing along with the piano. Welles is creeped out by the lawyers and goes to the lower deck, where one of the other laborers is playing guitar. Almost seamlessly Hayworth, still in the piano room, starts singing along with the guiarist. It's a little disorienting and a lot trippy.
Following later in the movie are a tryst set in a brilliantly shot aquarium, and of course the funhouse mirror scene depicted above. All in all, you come for the treachery of women. You stay for the erosion of reality.