Monday, June 08, 2015

Review of 'The Lady from Shanghai'

Watched this again last night, on an old-fashioned DVD. Had forgotten how brilliant it is - the complexity of the plot (not only is it not easy to guess, I'm still not sure I understand it all), the camera work, and the political sensibilities. There is no attempt to pretty up the lives or the qualities of the idle rich people it depicts. They are just nasty, in a way that only cartoon rich villains with ludicrous world domination plans get to be in modern films.

We know straight away that Welles' character, Michael O'Hara, is a good sort because he killed a 'Franco Spy' in Spain; we know straight away that George Grisby is a bad guy because he was on a pro-Franco committee. And as a modern audience we know that this film was made at a specific time (1947) because this probably the last moment at which Hollywood was prepared to celebrate a 'premature anti-Fascist'.

Fabulous camerwork, especially the Chinese theatre scenes, and the lovingly lit shots of Rita Hayworth, who is very sexy but probably wouldn't get a look-in in today's Hollywood because she isn't conventionally pretty at all.The end sequence in the hall of mirrors at the abandoned amusement park probably provided the template for all subsequent versions of this.

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