The Lady from Shanghai

Film - Feature | June 19 | 7 p.m. |  Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive

 Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive

Welles turned a mediocre novel into a brilliant film by overturning all the expectations of the crime thriller. Although the film remains an absorbing intrigue—the story of a murder plan that unfolds as a yacht makes its luxurious way along the Pacific—every scene is a showcase for Welles’s cinematic inventiveness, and the whole adds up to a significant statement on the evils of money lust. Welles pulled off a coup by casting himself as a totally sympathetic character, an Irish sailor with humanitarian politics who becomes a pawn in the game of the greedy rich. Then he took the Hollywood heroine, in the form of Rita Hayworth, and systematically destroyed the aura of glamour surrounding her, portraying instead an ugly web of avarice. The film’s bravura moments resonate beyond pyrotechnics, especially the magnificent sequences of reflexive cinema in the macabre Hall of Mirrors scene and the confession of love in a “fishbowl”—the San Francisco Aquarium.

 afox@berkeley.edu, 510-642-0365