The Lady from Shanghai (1947)

in CineTV11 months ago

So, what is film noir? A crime film with more drama and some essence of aesthetic, black and white mostly because no film noir has crossed the 50s, and most of the time the underlying theory is that "it's a big bad world out there." Now you know what a film noir is. Usually, the hero of the movie is placed in a situation where he doesn't belong, almost always in the wrong place at the wrong time. Sometimes he's being nosy and gets himself into someone else's mess and sometimes the mess gets created around him. Oh, there's a femme fatale, either she's the one in trouble, or she puts the hero in trouble or she's the trouble. Put all of that into a cauldron and the gumbo is ready to be served. The Lady from Shanghai (1947) is a good example of it but that isn't the only thing that could be said about the film.

The Lady from Shanghai (1947)


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A critic's point of view may slightly alter your perception of a film. Suppose you like a film a lot but the review of it wasn't favorable, so you may find yourself liking it a little less than before or may not say anything due to the negative point or flaws you overlooked. And if it just so happens that the critics did get a kick out of that movie, you may appreciate a movie more. Did I ramble too much? I will again tie it all up in a bow but keep that thought in your mind for now.

Orson Welles is a great director and frankly, I don't think I have seen any other director's Wikipedia page as long as his. As, long as his biography was over there, his filmography is quite short. I believe he was going for quality over quantity and he had done so; I do admire him and you can sense the "but" coming. I find it hard to like a character, mostly his character. Yes, he's also starring in the film and as the protagonist.


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Welles was playing the role of an Irish sailor, Michael O'Hara, who fell in love at first sight but was a tad foolish about the circumstances. Then there's our leading lady Elsa played by Rita Hayworth, the lady he fell in love with. Although not the Disney ice princess herself, she's an ice queen.

Well, our love-struck Michael was walking around Central Park and saw Elsa strolling on an open horse carriage, offers her a cigarette. Soon after Elsa got attacked by a few thugs and Michael comes to rescue. While escorting her, towards her vehicle, Elsa tells him that she had spent a better part of life in Shanghai, hence the name. Upon her departure, Michael hears from another person that she's married to the disabled criminal defense attorney Arthur Bannister (Everett Sloane). And no more spoilers.


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Why didn't I like the protagonist? I wish I had an easy answer. It wasn't him foolishly falling in love that made me dislike him. The fact that he portrayed a character who had too much pride and self-righteousness ingrained in his brain, almost as if he's too good for this world. And I guess, it was that characteristic that led him to that whole ordeal. Femme Fatale or not I actually like Elsa, she's cunning and played her damsel in distress facade so smoothly that for almost half the movie, I actually did believe that she needed saving. But she played Michael like a fiddle.


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So here goes

One character isn't going to ruin the film for me no matter how disdainful I find him. Words are powerful, even the simplest words can hold something significant within. And throwing a bunch of fancy words will show that you know your way around the words but then you may risk not being understood. That too happened with the movie.


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The overall story is great and no matter which critic or magazine said what, I admired it thoroughly. David Kehr had mentioned it being "the weirdest great movie ever made" which I agree with. It's just so freakishly good, vaguely surreal, like my username. I wouldn't call it a gem of a movie but it's indeed one of the best film noirs I have seen.

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