ORSON WELLES: THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI, Funhouse Mirror Ending

The Lady from Shanghai is a 1947 film noir directed by Orson Welles and starring Welles, his estranged wife Rita Hayworth and Everett Sloane. It is based on the novel If I Die Before I Wake by Sherwood King.

Through the hall of mirrors scene Welles is able to visually express the layers that the story (and film noir in general, really) is playing with. It’s layer upon layer of deception, layer upon layer of maneuvering, layer upon layer of identity, and in this final scene all these layers are at once stripped away, leaving the characters and the situation bared to their basic essences, and emphasized through the multiplicity and overlapping of images. Further, by using distorted images and framing shots so that they’re slightly askew, Welles leaves the audience feeling just as out-of-step and off balance as Michael feels.

Laying aside the technical brilliance of the sequence, the ending is also strong from simply from a character stand point. Arthur and Elsa are both rendered fatal wounds, Arthur taunting Elsa as he dies, Elsa trying in vain to crawl away from the scene of the crime before collapsing and begging Michael for help. Like most noir heroes, however, Michael has had enough and just keeps walking.

flickchickcanada.blogspot.com/Tuesday, November 2, 2010

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