Friday, October 22, 2010

The Third Man

Carol Reed, 1949, 105m, UK

This is a dark, steamy, cynical noire thriller set in post WW2 Vienna. It is based on a novel by Graham Greene. Orson Welles is Harry Grimes an American expatriate who over the years has changed into an inhuman criminal, making his fortune out of spurious drugs. Orson Welles excels at portraying the dark side of human nature and here gives a charismatic portrayal as the leering, indifferent and hardened villain.

It is the extra-ordinary cinematography that remains in the mind. Another is the haunting musical score, comprising nothing beyond the strings of a zither, whose blunt strains perfectly capture and comprise the alienated world of this bizarre film. The camera tilts and veers and the off vertical streets and walls totter in a process of fragmentation. The film is shot on location, largely at night in a city where the scars of the air raids remain like sores on a body. The film climaxes in an iconic drama in the underground sewers which the Welles character has made his habitat and where he gives his pursuants a long run for their money. The last is a stylish scene of bitter separation on a lonely road lined on either side with avenues of decapitated trees.

Roger Ebert
Bosley Crowther

4 comments:

Nathanael Hood said...

Great....

Now I have the zither theme stuck in my head again.....

S. M. Rana said...

Yes, the zither, the zither...

kaist455 said...

It's shame that wonderful Blu-ray released by Criterion is out of stock now.

Did you watch the Coen Brothers' "Miller's Crossing"? I think its last scene is influenced by the one from this movie.

S. M. Rana said...

kaist455: No, I didn't.This is a movie that lives through atmosphere conjured by the camera, and after all cinema is first and foremost about cinematography.