Saturday, May 2, 2015

The Touch

"What the camera does, and does uniquely, is photograph thought."
-- Orson Welles
Perhaps the strangest great American film from the classical period, made while the classical period was passing away. 1958, a year of movie astonishment, a year giving us more great or near-great American works than we've been given over the past 30 years combined: Touch of Evil, Some Came Running, Tarnished Angels, Bitter Victory, Man of the West, Bonjour Tristesse, Buchanan Rides Alone, Wind Across the Everglades, Paths of Glory, Vertigo: each work siding with -- embodying -- the eccentric and lawless, the sinister, the personal. During the Age of Conformity and Consensus.

From the first (legendary) shot, four minutes in length, Welles's Touch of Evil explodes with loathing, weirdness, and disgust as it heroizes the lonely fascist cop (in this case, literally a pig) over the organization man, he with the beautiful wife and the fetish for doing all things by the book. Not for a moment do we experience the world as does Mike Vargas. It is all Hank Quinlan: a Goya-like vision of an infected universe.

Good Welles friend Peter Bogdanovich and great Welles scholar James Naremore discuss the work.

Touch of Evil (1958)