Some Kind of a Man

Maria O’Connor
Vol 24, Number 1-2, p.88
Living On— Orson Welles’ 1957 film Touch of Evil has a remarkable legacy1 in the still recent history of cultural theory, particularly a cultural theory of the screen image. In 1975 the British theorist, Stephen Heath, constituted an originary and consolidating moment for screen theory with a frame-by-frame analysis of this film. Eight years later the theorist Homi Bhabha, in a detailed critique of Heath’s reading and the opening of a new space of reading, consolidated the early grounds of post-colonial theory. In a recent engagement, Donald Pease opens yet another space of enquiry that we would more closely associate with the theoretical work of Giorgio Agamben on the political space of the “state of exception.” This paper aims to address aspects of Pease’s text directly with respect to the question of law and border-zones of illegality as these concerns are most fully engaged by Jacques Derrida in his “The Law of Genre”(1992). But this text goes a little further with respect to an engagement with the structures of Touch of Evil. It attempts to locate in the floating corpse of Hank Quinlan (Orson Welles) at the film’s conclusion, a metaphoric engagement with the acts of deconstruction, and the meaning of the borderline of living-on that would, perhaps, constitute a resonance with the word ‘legacy.’