The Lady from Shanghai - Film Noir

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1. In classical Greek mythology, the sirens were creatures, which would sing so beautifully that sailors would wreck their ships and drown. Another creature in classical Greek mythology was Circe, a beautiful witch who would destroy the men who came to her island by turning them into animals. How does Orson Welles update these classical Greek elements and put them into his film? Why does he make use of these figures from classical mythology in order to tell a story set in the modern world?

The lady From Shanghai movie is a film noir. The movie is a commercial Hollywood film and at the same time an “art film”. One of the aspects of the “art film” is symbolism. Welles forced us into it is symbolic subtext in order to understand it is logic. He updated classical Greek elements and put them into his film. I think the reason why Welles is using mythology to tell a story set in modern world is because mythology gives meaning to human experience. Myths are ancient, but timeless stories that stretch the bounds of daily understanding. Elsa symbolized the Sirens. She is a beautiful woman who lured Michael to fulfill her selfish desire. She wanted her husband dead. Elsa is also compared to Circe (the daughter of Helios). Just before Michael passed out from the effects of the pills, he denounced her as a blonde Circe. He sticks the gun into her ribs. He told Elsa that she killed Grisby and she is the killer. Elsa, as Circe created unsubstantial image of beasts in men.

2. A story within a story: How does the Chinese play in the film reflect the events themes of the movie itself?

Michael runs into the Chinatown where he ducks inside the Mandarin Theatre, during the performance of a costumed, stylized oriental play. The Chinese theatre scene is central to the meaning of The Lady From Shanghai. The meaning of this scene is “the alienation effect”. The play on stage revealed Elsa’s true intentions. This scene comes in a moment, when audience needed...
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