“Some people can smell danger. Not me.” Says Irish-born boatswain Michael O'Hara (Welles) to Elsa Bannister (Rita Hayworth), in the dark of New York's Central Park. Directed and screenplay-written by Orson Welles, The Lady from Shanghai (1948) is vintage femme-fatale noir that's as silly as it is classic. O'Hara's hired by Elsa's husband Sloane to work aboard their yacht from San Fran to Acapulco and back, then becomes entangled in a sham murder plot involving the miserable couple and Sloane’s pestiferous law partner. Next... well, who knows what happens—the plot's as convoluted as a ball of frayed fishing line in a muddle of weeds. It doesn't matter. It's film noir. Disarray reigns. And the picture has enough style to keep you wanting nothing more. The hall of mirrors scene in the funhouse is fun. Chinatown, the Chinese, and the entrancing Hayworth talking Chinese are all sinologically delightful. Welles' lilty (it's in the OED) accent is caricature off the tongue. The tight editing and overlapping lines are deliciously unsettling and bizarre. This was a Welles experiment you either like or don't. A box office bomb that's tagged either "weird" or "strange." I like. Out of five: ★★★★.
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