Hello, My Name Is Orson Welles


Orson Welles liked to reuse certain elements throughout his films. He
liked a good deep focus shot. He liked low key lighting. He liked the
grotesque side of life, blocking actors in groups of three, low camera angles
and especially pointy bras. He also liked to open his movies in a certain
predictable way. In Citizen Kane, he used the announcer in "News on the March"
to introduce the subject and main character, Charles Foster Kane. In The
Magnificent Ambersons, Welles himself dubs the voice-over which introduces the
life and environment of the Amberson family. The Irish Welles serves as a story
teller in the beginning of Lady from Shanghai, recalling the beginnings of his
plight and giving insight into his character. Welles reads the enigmatic
parable, serving as the basis of Kafka\'s work, The Trial.
However, in Touch of Evil, the viewer can not hear the booming
instruction of an announcer, nor is the primary character revealed or the plot
introduced by a Wellesian voice over. In Touch of Evil, Welles parts with his
usual opening style in favor of a much more dramatic method of introduction;
this creates a less obvious, yet more intimate initial interaction between the
characters on the screen and the viewer in the seat.
Foremost, Welles\'s legendary long shot opens the film. These three
minutes and twenty seconds have many effects upon the viewer in introducing this
movie. The primary purpose of this shot is to slowly draw the viewer in to the
story by limiting the viewer\'s role in the film; he doesn\'t allow the viewer to
actively enter the world of the film. Rather, he constrains the viewer to
simply observe the actions presented without allowing the viewer to get involved
in the action. After the initial focus on the time bomb and its intrinsic
importance to the plot, the camera moves away from the action. At the same
point, Mancini\'s score begins, providing intrigue and promoting the viewer\'s
interest in the scenes revealed while, through the rhythmic ticking of the
bongos, also supplies a constant reminder of the ticking time-bomb waiting to
explode. Stepping back, the camera reveals the wider picture of the town; just
as an establishing shot serves to orient the viewer without displaying any
intimate action, Welles\'s camera then begins to introduce the setting to the
viewer. However, Welles limits the viewer\'s interaction by not involving the
viewer in any specific action. Rather, the focus of attention shifts
continually between different points of interest. First, the focus is the
doomed car driving pulling out of the parking lot, then driving down the street.
Then attention shifts to the other activity on the street, then back to the car,
and then on the entrance of Mr. and Mrs. Vargas. Until the end of the scene,
the Vargases and Linnaker\'s car battle for attention as they continually pass
each other within the camera\'s view. This shifting of focus keeps the viewer
just that: an observer looking into this world through the camera. Welles also
reinforces this feeling by raising the camera to unhuman points of view above
the action. It eliminates any initial intimacy the viewer could form with the
characters. Therefore, the viewer gets a broad overview of the town, the
atmosphere, and the people before gradually entering this world.
Welles first invites the viewer into the scene as the camera finally
returns to a human point of view at the border checkpoint. This change, not by
coincidence, comes with the first words spoken in the film. Welles uses these
two factors to humanize the camera and draw the viewer into this interaction
between the Vargases and the border guard. However, the view remains imperfect
for a human participant in the scene. The floating movement of the camera, a
left over attribute from the beginning of the shot, remains to remind the viewer
that he is not yet totally immersed in the action. Then, with a dolly into the
kissing couple, Welles gains some intimacy between the viewer and the characters.
However, still just an outside observer, it takes the violent explosion to
suddenly snap the viewer into the story. With the first cut of the film, Welles
shocks the viewer into entering this reality.
With the subsequent low angle, hand held tracking shot along the ground,
Welles finally changes the viewpoint of the film. The high amount of energy in
the shot, as opposed to the previous dream-like sequence, energizes the viewer,
drawing him into the action. The shaky style of the hand-held camera lends a
feeling of reality, as associated