The Third Man

 

 

 

 

 

 

The thought and direction in this film is simply amazing; the opening credits show us a zither playing a tune, but we don't see who's playing it. Who is the jovial black marketer? Who narrates the opening montage, and then vanishes from the film?

The Third Man is that rare film - perfect in every way, a popular narrative entertainment capable of holding great moral, artistic, philosophical, but most importantly, emotional weight. Joseph Cotten gives one of the greatest male lead performance in all cinema. I know, I know, Orson Welles is great but for me, despite the plaudits – it’s no contest.

What about that girl - Alida Valli. Could you not just die for her, her accent wasn’t deliberate she genuinely struggled though those lines. But she’s up there (for this singular role) with Vivien Leigh as one of most affecting female performances of all time -we love her and hate her, because she's the unrequited love to end all unrequited loves. Great support to from the every faithful Trevor Howard as he connives to get Cotten to supply him with the necessary information.


The movie is incredibly bleak - about people, about art, but it doesn't seem that way. The whole thing plays like a Nabokovian black comedy (Harry Lime IS Humbert Humbert) - genuine terror frequently slips into farce, and vice versa. The closure of the 'male' detective story is confounded by the hero's lack of progress in the romantic plot. Despite the film's cynicism, I was in tears when it ended, my ethics torn to shreds.
As a note of interest - some recent films (The Living Daylights for example) borrows elements such as the old friendships, the fake death, the ferris wheel, a performing girlfriend with forged papers and even the ‘Ein Balloon mein Herr’? Coincidence or was Bernard Lee destined to play M?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                           

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The third man