Touch of Evil and Le Fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain
Due: Thursday October 31, 2002
C LIT 301
Professor: Steven Shaviro
Technical elements within a film do not merely function to provide a film its visual interest. The elements of mise-en-scene, cinematography, and editing work together as a whole to create within a film underlying motifs and thematic messages. The films of Touch of Evil, and Le Fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain, despite being from varying genres and time periods utilize mise-en-scene, cinematography, and editing to enhance their films as works of art, not mere visual eye-candy for the film viewer. The visually and thematically dark film noir mystery Touch of Evil, the 1958 film by director Orson Welles presents through mise-en-scene a depiction of confined life. This motif is consistent throughout the film and is exemplified within the investigation scene that takes place in the apartment of Manelo Sanchez and Marcia Linnekar relays. This scene takes place in a shoe-box sized apartment with bare white walls and a sparse interior thus projecting a claustrophobic impression. The apartment such as like many other rooms, with exception to the ornate and highly decorated home of Tanya, is simple and quaint which enhances the lackluster and poor living environment consistent of the impoverish border town. Even though the exterior of the town is covered in daylight, the room is cloaked in dark hard lighting which presents a sense of gloom hanging over the characters within the film. Typical of the film noir genre, shadows are cast against the walls of the tiny apartment due to hard lighting with a minimal key source of light. This dark lighting denotes that no matter what time of day a scene takes place in, mise-en-scene relays the ideology that the town is shrouded in darkness and id trapped within its current downward spiral at all time
The clothing of Mike Vargas and Hank Quinlan within the investigation scene is important to notice because they reflect personality and moral differences between the main protagonist and antagonist. While the two men stand in the doorway of the bedroom in Linnekar’s apartment the color of their suits make symbolic reference to the nature of their characters. Vargas, dressed in a black suit gives reference to his stringent adherence to the law and his clear objectives an upholder of the law. Quinlan on the other hand provides a referent with his grey suit, the fact that he has created a gray area in terms of Quinlan’s corrupt nature in being detective, judge, and executioner at the same time. The opening sequence of Touch of Evil displays the mastery of cinematography within the film. This sequence employs a sense of loss and recovery as the camera follows two couples as their actions overlap. This long take sets up the location of action but also places pressure on the film viewer as they are riddled with expectations while the bomb is in the trunk of the car. Being that the beginning of the sequence shows a close up of the bomb, the catalyst of action, places this object at the forefront of our mind. The camera then distancing itself from action tracks the characters movements and takes on a voyeuristic position as it does not take on the perspective of any one character. This long shot from the crane provides the viewer an uninterrupted visual depiction of the seedy atmosphere and the moral corruption of the town while still thinking subconsciously of the reason for the bomb. This sequence visually reflects the labyrinthine plot that ensues and allows narrative and suspense to unfold.
The murder scene within the Ritz Hotel also uses camera angles and movement to enhance the action taking place. Unlike the opening sequence the murder scene uses multiple shots from various characters perspective which gives the scene a disorienting and frenzied feeling. As Quinlan enters