Sunday, May 07, 2006

Touch of Evil

Universal Pictures
Director: Orson Welles
Length: 112 min.
Country: USA
Format: 35mm
Date Viewed: 21 April, 2006

Orson Welles' achilles heel was his storytelling ability. His visual capabilities were undeniably brilliant, but when it came to the story, Citizen Kane was cold and uninviting, The Trial was too hazy for its own good, and The Lady From Shanghai was not terribly interesting (though I will be reevaluating this film in the coming months). Even in his Shakespeare adaptations, the stories feel secondary and all but cast aside in favor of their (eye-popping) cinematography and editing.

This inspires a feeling that his films are beautiful but somewhat empty. Touch of Evil, however, is the one film of Welles' I've seen where his story rose to match his visual prowess. It's a complex and well-written B Noir, reveling in the pulp that made the genre so satisfying. The film delivers memorable characters (Welles' Quinlan, guest-star Dietrich's Tanya, Weaver's Motel Manager) and many important societal themes that still apply today (police corruption, racial tension, drug abuse, and questions of loyalty, to name a few).

Without having seen The Magnificent Ambersons or F For Fake, I say that Touch of Evil is Welles' masterpiece, a film much more solid than his generally overrated Citizen Kane. This one is very highly recommended.


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