The Must See list has a bit of a love affair with Orson Welles. The man is such a uniquely stylish director that everything he makes is practically a must see. This one, The Lady from Shanghai, is a prime example. Compared to anyone else, it is so beautifully special that it becomes essential viewing. Compared to the rest of Welles’ work, however, this is merely another good film in the man’s impressive filmography; nothing more.
It’s always a joy to watch Welles play with the camera, toying with conventions and briskly handling his shots with flair and style. That is always the hallmark of a Welles film, and it is especially apparent here. The film noir style is very agreeable to Welles’ particular panache; the story itself often takes casualties from the overarching style of the film noir, yet it remains so entertaining that it almost doesn’t matter at all. I must say I wasn’t that impressed with Welles’ acting this time around, until I realized he was playing it deliberately muted to fulfill the noir conventions the film takes so much liberty with; Rita Hayworth, on the other hand, was enrapturing, scintillatingly so.
It is a dilemma, trying to figure out if this is enough of a standout in Welles’ filmography to warrant ‘must see’ status, or if it is merely just another example of a standout director instead; but then again, I may be thinking about it too hard, instead of simply enjoying the film for what it is. If you’re a fan of film noir, this will almost seem like a parody in how noirish it deliberately tries to be, but it will still be enjoyable in that regard; if you’re not a fan, this may merely be annoying to you. Nevertheless, it is a good film, but if you’re looking for a Welles film, you can clearly do far better.
Arbitrary Rating: 8/10