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The Lady From Shanghai

“Why don’t you try to understand?” asks Rita Hayworth’s femme fatale of Orson Welles’ Irish sailor. The question resonates with anyone befuddled by the plot of Welles’ studio-hacked 1947 noir, but Welles’ dazzling direction more than makes up for any lack of viewer understanding.

Welles was less interested in the tale of a drifter lured into trouble by Hayworth and her husband (Everett Sloane) than in classic noir staples: murder, voyeurism, male sexual anxiety. Whether that was due to his failing real-life marriage to Hayworth or not, the delirious set-pieces – the Magic Mirror Maze especially – render Welles’ genius for sly subtexts crystal clear.

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