Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Ten Compelling Reasons Why You Should Watch The Third Man

1. Carol Reed's The Third Man is a widely heralded classic of world cinema, combining thriller, romance, comedy, drama, documentary into a moving and entertaining mix. It's one of those movies that everyone should see.

2. The international cast includes Joseph Cotten, Alida Valli, Orson Welles, and Trevor Howard, all performing at their peak.

3. The story by novelist Graham Greene revolves around pulp western writer Holly Martins (Cotten), who is summoned to post-WWII Vienna by his old friend Harry Lime (Welles). Upon arriving he finds the city fractured by and recovering from the war, and discovers that Harry has in fact been killed in a car accident. As Martins investigates he finds that his friend was mired in the thriving post-war black market, and soon becomes involved with Harry's girlfriend Anna (Valli). And the more Martins learns of the situation the less certain he is about his friend's death.

4. The scene in which Harry finally appears is Welles' most iconic on-camera moment, and among the greatest reveals in the history of film.

5. The film's vivid setting isn't often as remarked upon as the film's other aspects, but the film offers a fascinating look at Vienna during this difficult period. The tensions between the city's various factions are a perfect backdrop for a story so filled with intrigue, and offset the more intimate drama between Cotten, Valli, and Welles beautifully.

6. And it's all captured with gorgeous, malignant shadows courtesy cinematographer Robert Krasker. The film appears somewhere in the middle of the film noir era, and Krasker's expressionistic work alone seals The Third Man's noir status.

7. Orson Welles is commonly misconceived as having directed (uncredited) at least a good portion of the film. This notion has been completely debunked, particularly by Welles himself, who lays claim solely to writing some of the dialogue. The segment he did write (a justly famous monologue delivered in a ferris wheel) has even proven incorrect about the origin of the cuckoo clock. Still a fine piece of writing, though.

8. The final shot is a goddamn heartbreaker.

9. The zither music by Anton Karas is one of the greatest (and most insidiously catchy) film scores ever - indeed, in the pre-rock'n'roll days of the hit parade, Karas' theme to the movie played on the radio for weeks on end, and sold hundreds of thousands of copies.

10. It's available for free here on Jaman.

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