Touch of Evil? Touch of Brilliance! — 8 years ago
I’ve seen this film several times, and I’m always blown away by it. The film is characterized by all the wonderful excess we associate with Welles: the extreme angles, the deep focus, the rich mise-en-scene, the powerful character whose downfall seems both inevitable and elegaic.
What’s more, this film is arguably the last class film noir and it sends out the style in, well, style. Pay particular attention to the opening sequence (about 3 minutes). That tracking shot is an auteur at work. If you’re not particularly invested in the visual style of film, you can always concentrate on the menagerie of characters gathered here: Charlton Heston (looking a little out of place in obviously racialized makeup, and with a bad Spanish accent); Janet Leigh; Dennis Weaver; Zsa Joseph Calleia; Akim Tamiroff; Marlene Dietrich; and, of course, Welles himself. They are quite an ensemble, all working to enhance the script.
And the script works within the best noir traditions, updated. Here, we have a compelling variation of good cop/bad cop played out in terms of border politics—the border being not only US/Mexico, but past/present. It’s worth watching not only for its entertainment & aesthetic value, but to see how the cultural anxieties of the period (1958) are presented; and for me, that’s part of the film’s entertainment/aesthetic value.