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Touch of Evil

Touch of Evil

Just because he speaks a little guilty, that don’t make him innocent, you know.

Touch of Evil is a fascinating film in many ways. It was the final film that Orson Welles made in Hollywood, it could be considered one of the last of the classic film noir and I even think it seems like a precursor to the French New Wave. I haven’t seen the version that was released at the time, only the restored version based on a long memo that Welles wrote after seeing the rough cut once. He wasn’t allowed back into the editing room and never saw a version that followed his advice.
Constraints are a fascinating thing. I think that they can produce much better work than having unlimited resources. With Touch of Evil Welles was brought onto the film at first to act, but ended up acting, directing and rewriting the script. With shooting completed in just over a month, the film is constructed out of a series of long takes with the camera following the actors.
Shot largely on location and with much of the film happening at night, it’s a convoluted thriller that shows corruption and revenge in a Mexican border town. Shooting at night enabled all sorts of great shots and lighting and the choreography of the actors is a joy to watch. Many scenes are great examples of how to stage and shoot a scene without needing to cut. The camera moves inside and outside and even into an elevator. Some scenes use a fairly static camera, while others throw things off-kilter and have fluid hand-held shooting.
Sound-wise it’s innovative with music coming from the environment and forming sonic bridges between different scenes. The stripped-down sound matches the contrasty lighting and meticulous framing as well as the characters with shifting alliances and motivations. A great film that is worth watching many times.

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