Troy Patterson
October 06, 2000 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Orson Welles inspired the noir form with 1941’s Citizen Kane, perfected it with 1958’s Touch of Evil, and, in between, turned out this baroque chunk of B-movie misanthropy. Welles plays Michael O’Hara, an addled Irish seaman keeping the company of a disabled, disaffected lawyer (Everett Sloane) whose luscious wife (Rita Hayworth) has sex and death on her scheming mind. She is likened to Circe, the mythical witch who changed men to swine, and Hayworth’s depiction is all the stranger because she was Welles’ real-life wife. As Peter Bogdanovich’s audio commentary and an included featurette make clear, The Lady from Shanghai is, like Jean-Luc Godard’s Pierrot Le Fou and Woody Allen’s Husbands and Wives, a film in which a man directs — with a seeming mix of longing and malice — the lover he’s kissing off. Where those other two movies are artfully fragmented, this one is just crazily disjointed. Maybe you’re best off skipping to the movie’s handful of thrilling set pieces, including the famously virtuosic climax, wherein Welles and Hayworth get lost in the fun house — a captivating reflection on on-screen and offscreen mirror games. B

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