A small town on the U.S.-Mexican border is marked by the seal of evil. Its imprint falls on the main characters of this grim thriller.
In particular, Mexican narcotics agent Miguel Vargas, who turns from a law-abiding husband and policeman into a vengeful madman, his innocent wife Susan, plunged by criminals into the abyss of a drug trance, and American policeman Hank Quinlan, who sold his soul to the devil for a profit.
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The film, to which, like a hat to Bogart, fits the stamp “the swan song of noir” and, after watching it, you can correct that very imaginary hat and deliberately carelessly cough through your teeth, saying that we have seen these noirs, we know – we have swum. The rhythm of the first shots makes you feel dizzy. Somebody’s hands wind up a time bomb, a metronome starts ticking in your head, the camera, like the eye of a whiskey-addled God or Big Brother, with its attentive gaze encircles the city in a dizzying maneuver. The famous almost three-minute scene, shot in one take. The man who said of himself, his life and career: “I started at the top and gradually came down,” insisted that even the credits of “The Seal” was put at the end, so as not to break the charm of this frantic loss-entry – one of the best prologue in world cinema.
It’s 1957, he’s only 42 years old, and he looks a complete wreck, staggering into the frame as a grotesque monster from old horror movies, a carcass with a smelly cigar and teeth rotting from sweetness – a real block of dying noir. Well, yes, they’ll say – makeup, acting, though it’s more like the dumbest fatigue… Wrinkles, misanthropy, sardonic laughter, and disgust. I feel dizzy and sleepy, everything makes me sick, everything irritates me, everything makes me dizzy. Oil rigs – they pump money there, and he’s “thirty years in the service” and nothing but work and despair. Life, this reference famme fatale noir, once gave unheard of advances to the aging wunderkind, but now she is no longer a blonde with open eyes Rita Hayworth, but an old enough intelligent gypsy. No more singing, no longer beckons in a wonderful new world white-toothed Hollywood smile, but no more lying to all the questions about tomorrow: “Why do you need the future? You don’t have one anyway. The 20th century cinematography, a “toy” in the opinion of the big kid Wells, also, as a prodigy, promised too much and deflated too soon. He sells his ideas, his acting talent, to other people’s projects in order to finance his own, but Hollywood doesn’t want his films, it shelves them with cold indifference. “Seal of Evil” is Orson’s farewell to Hollywood, an “adios,” his last party, the memory of which will be the film, released as a b-movie, and Wells’ famous 58-page piece of writing about the fact of his removal from the editing stage. But no – the cut-up film lays on the same shelf, in the all-forgotten stardust of eternity.
God knows who else will get to write about such a thing, so I’ll take this opportunity: Welles is a Genius, and he can’t make a movie. The director himself said this, saying that he only knows how not to make a movie, not how to make a movie. He played out of tune, did everything wrong – he cut and bleached his wife Hayworth, 90% of the style which was a mane of dark hair, and the most famous Hollywood German Dietrich turned into a gypsy. He mixed life with art and vice versa. Too much Welles, too much sophistication, beauty, strangeness…. He had no balance, no sense of proportion, he broke existing clichÃ©s, pulled the blanket over himself, invented his technique of shooting, his film language, for the right to master which many filmmakers today would be willing to eat their hats and sell their souls, even though both hats and souls are worn and have very rarely these days.
They say he didn’t even bother to read the readings on which he wrote the script and directed “The Seal of Evil” and generally didn’t give a damn about any source material, bending it to his liking. It seems that the only one with whom Wells was “on the same page” was Shakespeare, a real Renaissance man – an era of titans, hyperscale geniuses, heroes and villains, the first to sense the tragic rift between anthropocentric philosophy and human nature. And even when Wells is not setting Shakespeare, he is still, it turns out, setting it. A high tragedy with all the right ingredients – the Fate, the reflexivity of “to be or not to be,” big people with big hearts that accommodate, in a series of ridiculous cardiograms, everything at once – the highest and the lowest.
Baroque oppositions – light and shadow, good and evil. But the man who ended his career with “F as False,” where he blew the very naÃ¯ve belief of philistines in the possibility of distinguishing high Art from profanation, and he himself did not believe in the existence of Truth. There can be no definitive answer to the question, “What is man?” other than the sum of unknown subjective perceptions of him. Everything twists, distorts clichÃ©s, plays with facets of meaning, leaves out the key scenes for understanding what is happening (the Coen Brothers will repeat the last trick much later in their “No Country for Old Men”)… It turns out that Wells, in fact, anticipated the phenomenon of postmodernism many years before the word not only entered the lexicon, but appeared at all.
No, and you won’t have any truth. Dare, seek, beat the Earth, fall into it… Eat, drink reality and time, or they will devour you. Burn a cigar burn in reality to fall there. And you will fall, you can be sure of it. There is no good and evil, there is just the stupid inertia of that fall, which in “The Seal of Evil” is shown metaphorically at first and then literally. This is the fate of all the chosen of the Gods, who instead of the boundless Cosmos get a dusty backwater, instead of the Great Work – a dirty job and other delights of this best of worlds. Where people almost eat each other… And the needle stumbles on the icy, grooved field of the record, and the characters, absolute in their vector orientation, begin to slightly resemble each other. At the end, when, as in every Hollywood movie, Good triumphs over Evil, the rational, social (following duty, instructions) triumphs over the irrational, natural (chaos, mysterious “intuition”), we suddenly realize that the main move of the horse, the planted clues, reflects the real state of affairs. Good boys somehow too easily adopt the methods of their opponents, because to live with wolves… Well, the main badguy Quinlan becomes almost pathetic to the point of tears. “Guilty,” he says in a hoarse voice, “All guilty, every one of them!” and you believe it! There are no “bad cops,” no “good cops.” It’s all of us, stardust… All of our selves, our ups and downs, our souls and their components. All the multiple entities living in us, all our contradictions and paradoxes. The liberal and humanist Orson cannot help but condemn his fascist monster, the individualist and cynic Orson with all the generosity of his misanthropic soul writes him an indulgence. “He was a human being. Does it matter what they say about people? AdiÃ³s.” Yes… Shakespeare would have loved such an epitaph-like conclusion from the all-knowing gypsy…
Codec: HEVC / H.265 (93.3 Mb/s)
Resolution: Native 4K (2160p)
HDR: Dolby Vision, HDR10
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
Original aspect ratio: 1.85:1
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono (48kHz, 24-bit)
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono (48kHz, 16-bit)
English: Dolby Digital 2.0