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The Third Man

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Edited by kenmorefield

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Lucky you. My brother paid almost $50 for it (his collection of Criterions makes me jealous just to think about it). Still it was worth it. One of the all time greatest films, IMNSHO.

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One of my absolute favorites. This was one of the first black and white films I ever saw several years back, and my love for it has grown exponentially since. The acting, the lighting, the dialogue, Vienna, the dry wit, and of course, the zither. Glad you found a copy of it Ken.

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Need to give this one another shot. It had been built up so much in my mind. Especially Welles's entrance. Which, was pretty much just him walking out of a shadow.

I REALLY wanted to like this. And I'll probably try again.

On the other hand, I just caught Arsenic and Old Lace and hated it! Tracy's only comedic ability is the double take. It got very tiresome. I will never give it another go.

Edited by DanBuck

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This film definitely deserves its own thread. Even if nothing happened in the film, the mood it sets is fabulous.

I also love Harry Lime's speech from the top of the ferris wheel.

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I was just thinking about this film last night or this morning... we never meet Harry Lime until he is already evil, yet somehow we're frightened by the extent and completeness of his fall into depravity. My first exposure to the lead was in King Vidor's Duel in the Sun, in which he had a supporting role next to Jennifer Jones and Gregory Peck. From that movie I wouldn't have expected him to be able to play the lead in The Third Man convincingly, but he certainly pulled it off.

I'm starting to like noir where the participants aren't private investigators or cops but are insurance salesmen or writers.... yet somehow they all act exactly like Bogart.

Also I'll confess that I was somewhat shocked by the fact that there was female nudity in this film. I suppose I thought film nudity was more taboo at the time than it actually was.

Edited by theoddone33

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It also apeared as a focal point of the first episode of The Amazing Race.

I smell a Movie Landmarks list coming.

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Moving this content over from the thread I started.

This is one of my favorite films of all time. The interplay between optimism/innocence on the part of Joseph Cotten's Holly Martins and cynicism/experience on the part of Orson Welles' Harry Lime sets up an interesting dynamic both in the film itself and in the relationship between the viewer and the events onscreen. As I noted in a 'blog entry a while back,

Even the audience couldn't get rid of Lime. After "The Third Man," Lime's popularity led to a radio show and, later still, a television series. Lime was tamed into a lovable rogue more related to Martins' fantasy of him than the character we see onscreen who coolly calculates how many human lives he can afford to spend in order to get rich. It's as if Lime is a part of ourselves that we can't look straight out without toning him down; he is the romantic, unrealistic, unrealized and unrealizable ideal. He is us as we would like to be--the devil may care, but we won't. We wanted Robin Hood, and we got Al Capone.

Perhaps this is what makes "The Third Man" work so well for me; it pretends to let us have and eat our cake--the romantic Harry Lime that Martins is convinced must exist is still there, even under the grinning, affably evil face presented by the man himself. And then, we're forced to denounce this dream even as Martins denounces it at last in the sewer. It's quite a clever trap. We are forced to put the old man (ironically, Lime's pet expression for Martins!) to death, to kill our darlings, to renounce childish things in the most violent way possible. We must hold the gun with Martins.

Roger Ebert's got a pretty great review up on his website. In it, he compares The Third Man to Casablanca, and I think he is right in this. Indeed, Holly Martins' journey is pretty much the reverse of Rick's; where Rick moves from experience to a kind of reborn innocence/hopefulness, Martins moves from innocence to bewildered experience--and the movement is also reversed in terms of community. Rick moves from isolation (where everyone except Sam is either a client or a competitor) to spiritual community with Ilsa and Laszlo and spatial community with Renault. In contrast, Martins moved from (imagined) community with Lime and Anna to isolation. He ends the movie in the same position Rick occupies at the beginning of Casablanca.

Anyway, those are some disjointed thoughts. I 'blogged a more detailed response to Ebert's review at my 'blog.

For the search engine: Graham Greene, Carol Reed, Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten, Harry Lime, Holly Martins. "The Third Man"

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The new restored print of this will be playing in repertory double features at the NuArt in L.A. starting Friday. Any of you wish you lived here.

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I wish I lived there.

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I re-watched this last fall with some of my students (high school age international students from Germany, England, Korea and Thailand), and it played well with them.

It's also interesting to consider the impact that screenwriter Graham Greene had on the film. Last year a read a couple of his novels, and this film feels apiece with Greene's other works, both for its sense of location and the moral interrogations. Like THE QUIET AMERICAN it is a portrait of duty and morality in a crumbling Old World empire, and the unsuspecting, naive Americans who are eager to pick up the pieces.

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Yes. I read a few Greene novels a while back, myself, and I can see what you're talking about. Certainly, the ruined landscape in The Power and the Glory attests a similar spiritual wilderness to that embodied in post-was Vienna--although, of course, here there is no whiskey-priest to bear witness to the mysterious workings of Grace. There's also that element (really a part of the whole "entertainment" genre) of the innocent adrift and out of his depth (as in The Fallen Idol and Our Man in Havana--both of which were turned into movies by Carol Reed).

Actually, now that I think of it, The Fallen Idol is another interesting point of connection because the boy's relationship to the butler is analogous to Martins' relationship with Harry Lime. In each case, the "experienced" character is an almost godlike figure, mythic in his exploits and personally mesmerizing to the "innocent" character. Both films develop through the "innocent" character's developing view of the object of his worship, and climax with the him making a choice that changes the dynamic between them completely. You could even go so far as to suggest a parallel between the mother in Idol and Anna in The Third Man as a kind of unreachable female--although, of course (and thanks, if I'm correct to the same intuition on the part of Reed that led to The Third Man getting a not-happy ending) the child

is reunited with his mother

in The Fallen Idol.

Edited by NBooth

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I fell pretty hard for The Third Man when it played at the Aero Theatre two or three years ago. I'd seen it lots of times before, but it resonated more powerfully this last time. I think it had to do with how I was finally able to relate to the Holly Martins character after having suffered through some disillusionments of my own. (Of course it was all kids stuff compared to what poor Holly goes through!) The key scene for me is the one where he awkwardly confesses his love for Anna, who's obviously still in love with Harry. Joseph Cotten's acting is very delicate; you can just see his heart breaking. It's weird to admit it, but I always wanted to be Holly, not Harry, defiantly flicking away the match after Anna dumps him in the famous closing shot. If the film is his journey toward a sadder-but-wiser philosophy, Cotten really sells it, makes it seem attractive. He specialized in that kind of role, often playing the unlucky lover (The Magnificent Ambersons) or the lonely artist (Portrait of Jennie) or the reluctant conscience (Citizen Kane). One of my favorite actors.

Enjoyed reading your thoughts on the film, Nathanael. It's nice to have another Third Man partisan around here. And the parallels with The Fallen Idol are interesting. Greene's final collaboration with Reed was Our Man in Havana. Have you seen that one?

Edited by Nathaniel

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It's nice to see I'm not alone in my love for this movie. I agree with your point on Joseph Cotten. For all the love Orson Welles (deservedly) gets, Cotten is the heart of the film. We see everything (or almost everything--there are one or two scenes he's not in, yes?) from his puzzled perspective, and it colors the whole tone of the film toward the other characters.

FWIW, I listened to a lecture on iTunes one time on "The Third Man and Existentialism" that tied the match-throwing in the final scene to a moment earlier where he apparently does the same thing. The professor pointed out that both were moments of confusion for Martins. Does that make sense to you at all? (Last time I watched it, I totally missed the first match-throwing moment).

I just managed to see Our Man in Havana a couple of months ago. I liked it pretty well--pre-Revolutionary Havana is certainly a different kind of world than post-War Vienna, and it's realized pretty well. It's interesting to see Noel Coward as the British agent, since (apparently) the producers pushed for Coward to play Harry Lime. (It was especially odd to watch, however, since after reading the book I rushed out to rent The Tailor of Panama, and so had that movie associated in my mind with Greene's novel).

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Yet another restoration is being released (NY and Phila: 6/26; LA and SF: 7/3.) It looks fantastic.

 

The award-winning team at Deluxe Restoration carried out the new 4K digital restoration of THE THIRD MAN on behalf of Studiocanal. Following rigorous comparison of different available elements, the 4K scan was done from a fine grain master positive struck from the original camera negative. 

Edited by Darrel Manson

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Martin Scorsese:

 

Has it had an influence on my career? When I saw it, I was ripe for it – ready to understand what you can do with the camera. The themes of the picture made me feel comfortable about dealing with similar kinds of characters, characters you'd consider undesirable - the charm of evil. I did a paper on the film when I was 18 at NYU. The professor had different ideas. He wrote a note on the paper: "Remember, it's only a thriller." I disagreed. We know what happens in Psycho or Vertigo or The Red Shoes. So why do we keep watching? If some dismiss a work because it "fits" into a genre, then why does it sustain repeated viewings? It's more than the plot twists and surprises of the story. Certainly, it's the characters, the world they inhabit, the love stories, the trust and betrayals – the human heart. Each presented with intelligence, wit, and a very real joy of film-making, while still feeling fresh.

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I had known about this series for a while, but never really bothered to track it down: The Third Man, starring Michael Rennie (Klaatu and Saint Peter) and Jonathan "Dr. Zachary Smith" Harris. It ran for a whopping five seasons, with Harry transformed from an amoral scoundrel into a sort of rogue adventurer (making it a kind of remake of The Lives of Harry Lime rather than the actual movie The Third Man--though, notably, this series is not a prequel to the movie, with references to Harry's black marketing in postwar Vienna). I'm watching a couple of episodes today. I expect to enjoy them in precisely the way I always enjoy bland midcentury tv crime shows.

 

 

EDIT: There was also a 1997 remake called The Third Woman? And there don't seem to be any clips of it on YouTube....

 

Wait, the whole movie--under its original-language title Treca zena and not featuring any English subtitles--is on YouTube in its entirety. Since I don't know Serbo-Croatian I can't speak to the dialogue, but visually it seems to verge--in the spots I checked out, including the last scene--on being a shot-for-shot remake. 

Edited by NBooth

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