Tuesday, July 01, 2003

welles double bill

The Lady from Shanghai: Caught this finally over the weekend and enjoyed this strongly influential hallmark of Welles' talent. The background score is studio material, and apparently even Welles was quite displeased. Rita Hayworth sports a new look, which, at the time, raised a mini storm. One will either be tickled or ticked off by Welles sporting an Irish accent, but his virtuosity and sense of visual style are undeniable. Things to watch out for: snappy dialogue, camera angles, editing and the finalé in the Hall of Mirrors.

The Trial: I haven't read Kafka except for Metamorphosis and so I have no idea what the source novel for this film is like. But if it's anything like this wonderful example of Welles rebuffing every studio in Hollywood that destroyed his career, then Kafka is going to move fast onto my to-read list. Audacious, gothic, expressionist, surreal, loaded with confusion, doubt, fear and temptation. Welles' love of shadows, extreme camera angles and spectacular sets is evident as the film follows Joseph K (spectacularly played by Anthony Perkins), accused of an unknown crime and pursuing bureaucratic justice. Taken completely by surprise in a claustrophobic world of connected walls, doors opening into disjoint milieux, empty landscapes, dystopian architecture and a melange of oddball figures including a sybaritic advocate (deliciously played by Welles himself), a clique of detectives, a trial audience whose responses are conditioned by secret signs from the judge, and a crazy little man (played by Akim Tamiroff, last seen in Mr Arkadin) who orbits the Advocate pleading for assistance in his case. Anthony Perkins was one of several actors whose looks led people to believe they were gay. Welles exploited this to good effect in the film, giving Joseph K a fear of exposure: there are three beautiful women (K's neighbour who works at a nightclub, a courtroom clerk, and the Advocate's mistress) who try to seduce him, but he is completely repressed and incapable of responding to them.

As with The Magnificent Ambersons, the end cast credits are read over by Orson Welles without titles, which adds fuel to another strain of thought: did Welles mean for this to be a personal statement (with K being his alter ego in the film)? After he made one of the greatest films ever and was never forgiven for it.

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