Orson Welles’ Lady From Shanghai bridges the cinematic landscape from drama to adventure and mystery. Led by its director (and protagonist) himself, alongside heroine Rosalie Bannister (Rita Hayworth), each character reveals layer after layer of insecurities, deception and greed throughout the story. However, the fascination lies within the depth that Welles is able to explore. Both tough guy and damsel reveal their true colors gradually, methodically, touching upon the most intimate conundrums of life, reflecting a harrowing character piece that shows the demons within oneself. The magic lies in Welles’ delivery, exposing the depths and revealing their own façade to be but a mere image they have create to shelter their true selves.
Akira Kurosawa’s Hidden Fortress stands apart from most of his feudal Japan films, primarily due to the near complete absence of war and swordplay. While the usual mix of steel, flames and water are still present within the film, Hidden Fortress carefully selects the elements Kurosawa wishes to focus on. The common element that reveals its importance in scene after scene, portrayed in various forms, is wood. On a quest to smuggle a princess outside enemy lines, samurai general Makabe (Toshiro Mifune) must drag along two greedy peasants to help carry the bounty meant to rebuild the remains of their fallen country.
It doesn’t matter that the credits state that it’s a screenplay written by Sam Peckinpah and Walon Green, a fiction developed from a story by Walon Green and Roy N. Sickner. It doesn’t matter that Pike Bishop’s (William Holden’s) command to his men in the robbery that opens the film is “If they move, kill ‘em.” And that this is followed by DIRECTED BY SAM PECKINPAH, simultaneously a bold statement and a way to defuse Pike’s order. It doesn’t matter that the fight sequences are entirely subjective in their staging and editing, we want to believe that there were once guys like these running around loose. We want to believe that these weary, battle-scarred men are the cowboys that made the west wild, as their name implies. They are not above shooting civilians (as they do, when we see the parade marchers mowed down in the crossfire between the Bunch and Harrigan’s bounty hunters), but they’d rather not. They stand by each other against the world, and in their circumscribed universe (which is shrinking with the paving over of the west) that is the loftiest ideal they can hope for. It’s this commitment to each other that drives Pike and company to forsake their retirement score and engage in a suicidal shootout with Mapache’s men after Mapache slits Angel’s throat.