The Third Man
(1949)

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Directed:                      Carol Reed
Written by:                  Graham Greene
                                      Alexander Korda
Screenplay:                 Graham Greene
                                      Carol Reed
                                      Orson Welles
Produced:                    Carol Reed
                                      Alexander Korda
                                      David O. Selznick
Associate Producer:   Hugh Perceval
Cinematography:        Robert Krasker

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It’s nearly all been said about this film – but hell – let’s have another go. On the off chance you haven’t seen this movie – stop reading now and go get it on DVD…don’t ruin a masterpiece by reading some spoilers on a website!!

Everything from the black and white frames, to the blatantly melodious music, to the brilliant cast and direction suggest that portraying the hard knocks of reality may be comforting too. ‘The Third Man’ is foremost a film about catching a scoundrel but the telling of this tale is far more interesting from the imaginative cinematography of shadows and slants and quick takes of ordinary people to the playfulness of this quirky story by novelist Graham Greene. Just how can you get away with throwing in odd pieces like a parrot and a finicky cat and make it an integral part of a film? How can mispronounced or misnamed characters bring out laughter at the most inappropriate times? How ever in the world can such lines like,

‘Any friend of Harry's is a friend of mine'

‘All the Swiss have to show for their 500 years of democracy is a cuckoo clock?'

and my favourite,

‘Be sensible Martins … I haven't got a sensible name'

But in the hands of a master like Carol Reed, the dialogue and action just effortlessly take you from pillar to post. For example, the mysterious Harry Lime doesn't show up until the last half of the film but his subsequent appearances are so anticipated and his character so dominating you feel you have experienced him much more.

The life of the avid film-goer can actually be a depressing, disillusioning thing. After the initial gleeful devouring of the canon (about 300 movies), and the joyous stumbling over the odd undiscovered gem, the cineaste must be content with an endless trail of largely diminishing returns. The only counter against this is brilliant films which never disappoint on the 18th viewing, such as Vertigo, The Wizard Of Oz, The Wild Bunch... ...and The Third Man, a film containing such multitudes that it makes you forget that the majority of British cinema is parochial, unambitious, self-satisfied rubbish. A great film is by definition a labyrinth: whatever your mood, be it emotional or intellectual, you pick up a new thread of interpretation, and find yourself in places you've never been before, yet by the end, everything still doesn't quite fit, and you have to begin again. And you know that there is nothing in the world you want to do more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                           

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The third man