The Lady from Shanghai – Film Noir Paper
In classical Greek mythology, the sirens were creatures, which would sing so beautifully that sailors would wreck their ships and drown. Another creature in classical Greek mythology was Circe, a beautiful witch who would destroy the men who came to her island by turning them into animals. How does Orson Welles update these classical Greek elements and put them into his film? Why does he make use of these figures from classical mythology in order to tell a story set in the modern world? The lady From Shanghai movie is a film noir. The movie is a commercial Hollywood film and at the same time an “art film”.
One of the aspects of the “art film” is symbolism. Welles forced us into it is symbolic subtext in order to understand it is logic. He updated classical Greek elements and put them into his film. I think the reason why Welles is using mythology to tell a story set in modern world is because mythology gives meaning to human experience. Myths are ancient, but timeless stories that stretch the bounds of daily understanding. Elsa symbolized the Sirens. She is a beautiful woman who lured Michael to fulfill her selfish desire. She wanted her husband dead.
Elsa is also compared to Circe (the daughter of Helios). Just before Michael passed out from the effects of the pills, he denounced her as a blonde Circe. He sticks the gun into her ribs. He told Elsa that she killed Grisby and she is the killer. Elsa, as Circe created unsubstantial image of beasts in men. 2. A story within a story: How does the Chinese play in the film reflect the events themes of the movie itself? Michael runs into the Chinatown where he ducks inside the Mandarin Theatre, during the performance of a costumed, stylized oriental play.
The Chinese theatre scene is central to the meaning of The Lady From Shanghai. The meaning of this scene is “the alienation effect”. The play on stage revealed Elsa’s true intentions. This scene comes in a moment, when audience needed some answers. I think Welles gave us a little exposition to clear things up before he takes us to the House of Mirrors. 3. Discuss the scene in the House of Mirrors towards the end of the film. What is the symbolic importance of mirror images appearing and then being broken or shattered? Elsa’s servants kidnapped Michael to a deserted amusement park, closed for the season.
I the hall of mirrors Elsa and Bannister murder one another in the fragmented shards of glass. The symbolic importance of mirror images appearing and then being broken it is that not only their bodies are being terminated, but their self-images, self-esteem, and personal legacies being shattered as well. When the mirrors are destroyed than we can see whom Elsa really is. Before Michael descended into the hall of mirrors, he twice passes signs that say: “STAND UP OR GIVE UP”. When Michael enters the hall of mirrors, the distorted images of him suggested potential lost of selfhood. . Give a detailed example of a montage from this film. For this question, you may use any example except the siren scene, the Chinese play scene, and the mirror scene, as these have been discussed above. Montage in The Lady From Shanghai is used in flashback to explain the past, ongoing actions and illustration of character’s thoughts. The scene in aquarium, when Michael met with Elsa it is an example of a montage. There are an octopus and shark in the big tanks. Octopus is a symbol of conspiracy; shark is a symbol of power, unpredictable, dangerous.
When Elsa and Michael kissed in the aquarium, the sharks made sinister passes in the tanks behind them. Michael does not know it that he is on his way to be eaten by his lover. This means the fragility of existence, the absurdity of reality, and the lie in love. When Michael O’Hara delivered a speech about the cannibal sharks; the metaphor perfectly describes the group of people with whom he traveled. 5. Explain how The Lady From Shanghai is both commercial Hollywood film and at the same time an “art film”? Give specific examples from the film’s plot, characters, and setting.
The Lady From Shanghai is a commercial Hollywood film and at the same time an “art film”. The film has an art film aspects like: symbolism, social realism style, focus on thoughts and dreams of character, use of montage, close-ups, nonlinear plot, targeted selected type of audience. Examples supporting art film are: symbolism – the Sirens, Circa, the courtroom scene, Bannister named their yacht “The Circe”. When Elsa springs a trap of seduction and deception on Michael, she first leads him down back alleys until they reach a spot where a large pig is wallowing in the street (Circe) etc.
Use of montage – jury’s chairs arrange as a chessboard, Judges playing chess, scene in aquarium. The film has also commercial film aspects like: making money, targeting general audience, linear plot, overlapping dialogues, violence, music aspects, soft focus, deliberately stylized glamor, commercial. Examples supporting commercial film are: use of overlapping dialogues – Chinese theater. Soft focus – glamorous soft-focus extreme close- ups of Elsa’s face. Violence – triple murder. Commercial – scene on the yacht interrupted by Glosso Lusto – hair care product commercial.