Friday 19 December 2014

The Third Man [1949]

Carol Reed created an instant masterpiece with The Third Man, which ranks, along with Dassin’s nightmarish Night and the City, as the greatest instance of British Noir. The signature of celebrated British author Graham Greene, who wrote the screenplay and also published it as a novel, was palpable from the murky Cold War era climate, moody doom-laden atmosphere, moral corruption and bankruptcy, tussle between idealism and cynicism, wry humour and pervading sense of melancholia, fatalism and heartbreak. The film begins with Holly Martins (Joseph Cotton), an American writer of pulpy Westerns, arriving at the political hotbed of Vienna, which is occupied by Allied forces, in order to respond to a job offer that had been shared by an old friend of his, Harry Lime (Orson Welles). Upon arrival he’s informed that Harry has mysteriously died in a road accident; however, the more he delves into the matter, the more he gets sucked into an elaborate and seedy netherworld of lies, betrayals and black-market racketeering that Harry was allegedly a mastermind of. He becomes acquainted to the opposing forces of Major Calloway (Trevor Howard), who’s relentlessly pursuing after Lime, and Anna Schmidt (Alida Valli), an beautiful, sad-faced illegal refugee who works as a bit-actress, is besotted with Lime, and who Martins starts falling for. The excellent cinematography, with the striking chiaroscuro and frenetic camerawork, was memorably juxtaposed by the iconic zither score that added a dose of irony and an air of lamentation to the proceedings; on the acting front Welles was particularly unforgettable despite his brief screen-time; and these culminated into a feverish crescendo at Vienna’s dank, grimy and labyrinthine underground sewer system.

p.s. My earlier review of the film can be found here.

Director: Carol Reed
Genre: Thriller/Crime Thriller/Film Noir
Language: English
Country: UK

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