A film’s ability to remain timeless nearly fifty years after its release constitutes a work of brilliance that only few films possess. Specifically, in relation to recent political wars of immigration and borders, Touch of Evil divides a fine line between crime and innocence. Orson Welles’ Hank Quinlan, at first sight, appears unbreakable – entirely devoid of any sort of empathy, as he strolls onto the screen, off balance from an old wound he obtained defending his friend. But as the classic noir unwinds, the director himself reveals a moral conundrum any and all face when questioned by the notion of “authority.” The overarching theme is never once mentioned, but left to the elaborate set design that the story encompasses within itself. Touch of Evil is a noir that still casts a luminescent shadow on issues that are far from outdated, signifying Welles’ keen insight into the issues of both past and present America.
The Red Shoes – 1948 – dir Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger
In The Red Shoes (1948), director Michael Powell explores the apparent lack of balance in the life of a young dancer’s life. Drawing parallels between the story by Hans Christian Andersen of a girl consumed by the need to dance, Powell has Vicky (Moira Shearer) dance her way through a lush, intricate, dream-like twenty-minute ballet sequence where the dimensions of the stage stretch into infinity and the ocean itself, substituting for her audience, roars approval for her grace and beauty. It takes some effort to come back from this exhilarating dance sequence to the mundane world of show schedules and dance rehearsals, where most of the action in The Red Shoes takes place. And this is Michael Powell’s great achievement, the way in which he, working closely with choreographer Robert Helpmann, cinematographer Jack Cardiff, art director Arthur Lawson and production designer Hein Heckroth, infuses a film which deals with the realities of a ballet company with a strong, visibly palpable dose of fantasy.
Audiences seem to have forgotten how for almost half-a-century, Doris Day dominated not only the movies but radio, the big-band circuit, stage and television. She WAS America in the way John Wayne WAS America. Her freckle-faced goodness and virgin-all-the-way persona mirrored American values and mores and was thus much-loved for decades. By the 1960s and ’70s, her star began to fade, a victim of the sexual revolution and the unlikely stardom of less conventionally attractive actresses like Barbra Streisand and Liza Minnelli. Today, in her eighties, she lives a reclusive life in Carmel, California, answers only to the name, ‘Clara’ and very seldom engages in conversation about her Hollywood glory days.