Welles’ cinematography also disorients viewers throughout the film. Rarely is the camera where it should be, and many shots employ tense angles, claustrophobic or vertiginous vantage points, or chaotic compositions. The high-angle shot at the top of the yacht’s mast casts a pall of dizziness that lingers for the remainder of the film. The shots of Grisby explaining his plot to O’Hara along the coastline visually tell us that they are on the brink of death; the plan is doomed before it begins. [...]
Tragically, The Lady from Shanghai was one of Welles’ final directorial assignments in Hollywood. He directed Macbeth, which was also released in 1948, and Othello, released in 1952, but as Shakespearian dramas their crossover appeal was limited. Mr. Arkadin/Confidential Report came out in 1955 but was produced and released in Europe. He acted in a number of films during this decade of directorial hiatus, most notably 1949’s The Third Man (Carol Reed), but most of his performances as an actor have been relegated to obscurity. His reappearance as a director did not occur again until 1958, when he returned with Touch of Evil, a film noir farce that indicts the Hollywood establishment for their micro-management and commercial ways. The Lady from Shanghai was on the cutting edge of many areas including Welles’ directorial career. Nevertheless, the film is one of his best and one of the best of its kind in American cinema.
– Chris Justice, fra et essay hos Senses of Cinema.