Tuesday, September 21, 2010
The Lady From Shanghai's more inconsistent elements become more understandable once you know a bit of history behind the film. An early-ish film noir, it was one of Orson Welles' several troubled projects following Citizen Kane. And, despite his pedigree, the studio yanked control of his original, two hour-plus cut and hacked it down to just short of 90 minutes. Despite shuffling any coherence or pacing it might have had, what was impossible to destroy was the daring camera work — extreme close ups, unnerving dutch angles and his always masterful framing of contrast and shadow.
Welles also wrote the film, and starred as a tough Irish veteran from the Franco wars in Spain. After a chance meeting with Rita Hayworth in a NY park, he's lured by the femme fatale
against his better judgment to serve as a deck hand on her husband's yacht. As the boat sails through one exotic locale after another, stopping for island excursions and picnics, Welles is sucked into the miserable life occupied by Hayworth's wealthy, defense-attorney husband and his law partner, who find joy in nothing but sitting around drinking and shoveling insults and pithy sarcasm on each other. Naturally, Welles appears to be the ideal escape for Hayworth, and the two begin to plot a future together as the two lawyers plot something different entirely.