Orson Welles Film Noir

Film noir is usually thought of as a style marked by a thematic focus on gritty crime, with crooked detectives and colorful criminals, and black and white compositions with harsh shadows and streetlights falling across the characters at sharp angles.

Welles’ film noir moments came in a few of his projects, particularly those early and midway through his career.

One familiar with Citizen Kane can see that the classic does embody some of the stylistic traits noted above, and because of this, it can be said to have influenced the genre.

Lady From Shanghai would mark Welles’ directorial foray into elements of noir. One noir trait it embodies is the fall guy and femme fatale paradigm, with Michael O’Hara (Welles) as the former and Elsa Bannister (Rita Hayworth) as the latter. The film also has an air of hopelessness, of the main characters stepping into webs from which they won’t be able to escape, that is a trait of the noir.

However, what links Welles most to film noir here is the scene near the end of the film in the hall of mirrors. This much-talked-about cinematic feat had all the haunting and visually stunning traits of noir.

It’s fair to say that 1958’s Touch of Evil carries many traits of film noir as well, particularly its exploration of corruption.

As an actor, Welles played the role of Harry Lime in The Third Man. The way Welles brought Lime to life as a cheerful, diabolical villain, lends one key noir trait to the film.


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