Touch of Evil

Posted by: | March 4, 2009 | Comments Off on Touch of Evil

Like Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane, Touch of Evil has an ominous nature to it as it utilizes noir techniques. The plot seemed to take many twists and turns. The style of the film reminded me of Citizen Kane as the opening scene begins with lurking shadows and faceless footsteps. This scene seems to set the mood of the film, as the audience follows the honest police, Vargas, around in his quest to seek truth. During the majority of the film, the audience does not have any grounds for truth. Yet we readily accept that Vargas is the good cop, simply because he is the first character we are introduced to and as a result we instantly develop an attachment to him. Ironically the cop that is assumed bad ends up being right in his premonitions about Sanchez, which we only find out after he dies. The first scene, where the murder takes place in reality does not play a central role within the l storyline. Instead this scene functions as a way of displacing the viewer. The film’s primary concern is to bring the bad cop to justice and to reveal his fraudulent behavior. It is interesting to note that even though many of the characters are well aware of his behavior, they all seem to stick by him. I didn’t understand the role the fortuneteller played, only that she allowed the bad cop to hang around, usually after he had committed some scandalous act. The only part she seemed necessary within the plot was at the end when she explained to the bad cop that he had no future. Obviously this worked to foreshadow his eventual demise.
Like the film we watched last week as well as Los Olvidados, Touch of Evil has opening commentary from the director. This seemed to be popular among film directors during the time. Usually when we watch contemporary films we are very disconnected from the director and we only see the “man behind the screen” when he/she gets up on stage to accept an award. However with these earlier films the directors were the front men and immersed themselves within their own films. I find it is interesting that Orson Welles always plays one of the leading roles in his films as well. The opening script heightens the audience’s perception and allows the director to develop a relationship with his audience.
The opening scene is interesting because the audience is initially so far removed from the characters. Like a voyeur, we only know that a bomb has been put in a car and as we follow it, we know it is only a matter of time until it explodes. The tension is heightened as the car continually makes stops at every intersection and we are yielded helpless. Yet as we pull away from the focus of the car we temporarily forget the adrenalin that has been built up within us and our minds become preoccupied with Vargas and his wife. As soon as they go in for their first kiss, we hear a loud explosion. We start in the middle of the drama, are pulled out of it and then forced to recall it. As a result the audience takes on a number of different spectatorships, as we go from having more knowledge than any of the characters, to oblivious, and then experiencing the occurrence of events with the characters.
The scene where Vargas’ wife is suspect for using narcotics, reminded me of film noir when women were usually the plot’s criminals, such as when Suzie is blamed for killing Mr. Grande.
Another unique and interesting aspect about the film is how the bad cop is American and the good cop is Mexican. Often this would not be the case and it made me question whether Welles’ had some motive for doing this or whether or not it was some social critique he was making about our justice system. The Americans seemed to be more ignorant in contrast to the Mexican characters as they mispronounced words in Spanish and demanded that English be spoken. This also seems to emphasize how Americans are ethnocentric in their culture and language. I remember when I was in Mexico and my friend told me that you can always tell whether or not someone is American and that is when they can speak only one language: English.


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