Saturday, January 3, 2015

Touch of Evil Review

Of all the fancy cinematic techniques that people (myself included) get all happy and horny about, the long take tracking shot is the one most likely to get a literal rise out of me, as in to my feet, applauding the television alone in the living room with tears of joy in my eyes as if the Cubs had finally won the god damn Series. Some examples of this can be found in Goodfellas, Children of Men, Gravity, and that sexy finish to the fourth episode of True Detective. I may be forgetting some obvious and legendary tracking shots, as these came from the top of my head. If so, don't get hot and bothered about it. I mean no disrespect.

The opening sequence of Touch of Evil belongs in this same class of long take brilliance, and considering it was released in 1958 it must be acknowledged that such a scene was an innovative achievement, where as the technique has become much more commonplace now (although still a treat when pulled off to perfection). It begins with a close up shot of a bomb resting in a pair of hands, and the camera sweeps and changes trajectory with ease as the device goes from those hands to the trunk of a car that we follow through the streets, anxiously wondering when those inside it will meet their demise. The first cut of the film comes as we hear the explosion, and I immediately started the film over so I could watch it all again.

I very much enjoyed the film, although I found some aspects to be odd and distracting, like the portion of Orson Welles performance of which I had trouble deciphering dialogue from the stream of mumbling that left his mouth, or the fact that Charlton Heston is in the film at all as a Hispanic man, though I only recognize that from the fact that they colored his skin and gave his character the name Miguel. His casting in particular seems bizarre to me, as even if you disregard the nationality of the character, the performance just didn't work.

While his verbal demonstration may not have always been top notch, the fact that Touch of Evil was directed by Welles is the reason any praise headed his way for this work is completely deserved. Such an excellently crafted picture, this dark and shadowy noir is visually stunning and always compelling.

Now time to go back and watch that opening again. It's cinematic stimulation at its finest.


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