S'io credesse che mia risposta fosse
Come on, read my future for me.
You haven't got any.
What do you mean?
Your future is all used up.
So speaks a fortune-telling madam, played by Marlene Dietrich, to the drunken sheriff of a border town, played by Orson Welles, in Touch of Evil.
Her words have a sad resonance, because Welles was never again to direct in Hollywood after making this dark, atmospheric story of crime and corruption.
It was named best film at the 1958 Brussels World Fair (Godard and Truffaut were on the jury), but in America it opened on the bottom half of a double bill, failed, and put an end to Welles prospects of working within the studio system.
Yet the film has always been a favorite of those who enjoy visual and dramatic flamboyance. I'd seen the film four or five times before I noticed the story, the director Peter Bogdanovich once told his friend Orson.That speaks well for the story, Welles rumbled sarcastically, but Bogdanovich replied, No, no—I mean I was looking at the direction.
That might be the best approach for anyone seeing the film for the first time: to set aside the labyrinthine plot,
and simply admire what is on the screen.
The movie begins with one of the most famous shots ever made, following a car with a bomb in its trunk for three minutes and 20 seconds. And it has other virtuoso camera movements, including an unbroken interrogation in a cramped room, and one that begins in the street and follows the characters through a lobby and into an elevator. The British critic Damian Cannon writes of its spatial choreography, in which every position and movement latches together into a cogent whole.