Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Critical Muss

Some critics find Lady confusing
Their place in the plot they keep losing
They turn when it's twisting,
its pleasures resisting,
and think that the writer was boozing

Everett Sloane and Orson Welles in Welles' black comedy noir, The Lady From Shanghai (1948). Welles is often been criticized for sacrificing storytelling for the sake of style, but I find his films engaging because they are so byzantine. They play like mysteries about something far deeper than simply whodunnit. The Stranger is one of his most straightforward films, and one of his least interesting. In Shanghai, Welles' churning, crazy-quilt visual style is mirrored in the twisting, convoluted narrative, a narrative tied to the maneuvering of its duplicitous and unreliable characters. Shanghai looks and and feels like a vertiginous world tottering on the brink of...what? The apocalypse? Welles original vision will likely never be fully known. The studio cut it by as much as an hour--and the excised footage is lost.

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