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.


susan said...

I like film noir but haven't seen this one, or at least I don't remember having seen it as my memory of movies seen long ago is sketchy. It's certainly true that those of us who enjoy watching films are far better off trawling for old Hollywood and foreign ones but it's not always easy to find them.

There's a weird but well stocked video store here (the owner has everything sub-categorized to an alarming degree) where we may be able to find The Lady. Thanks for the recommendation.

Ben said...

You keep hearing that video stores in general aren't doing well now. The fact that you live near one that's both weird and well-stocked sounds like a lucky break.

susan said...

It is good but the owner is very anal and refuses to let anyone look at his computerized inventory. Of course, we managed a peek over his shoulder and it's in DOS.