Friday, August 05, 2005

Touch of Evil (1958)

First thing first: Charlton Heston is the least convincing Mexican in celluloid history. Now that I've gotten that out of the way, the gushing may begin. Usually, when discussing this film, one talks about the technical bravado and all that. But that's been done. So I'd like instead to just mention that this film's lighting scheme is amazing (with its perfect shadows and lighting, it seems to set itself up as the uber-noir) and then talk about the plot, which is big and sloppy and full of contrivances and within its limits about as perfect as these things get. Noir is always about morality. Welles means to poke at that morality and see where it oozes. So what looks simple turns into something else: the "good" cop isn't above dirty tricks, while the "bad" cop may have a point after all. (The film's final dialogue, in particular, takes what we had assumed about the Welles character and stands it on its head.) In its own peculiar way, this film flashes forward to Chinatown and L.A. Confidential and The Long Goodbye and dozens of other morally ambiguous cop flicks. Then there's the dialogue, which crackles like someone stuck a live wire to it. I'm susceptible to hard-boiled noir dialogue anyway, but just listen to the interrogation of the Mexican kid in the hotel room: It's not just what's being said that's important but the rhythm of the words in the room. Top that off with a screenplay that has more great little character moments than an entire summer of indie flicks (the scene where Welles downs a shot and says "I don't drink"? brilliant!) and what we have is a film that damn well deserves its classic status. Even with the Mexican Moses.

Grade: A-


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home