44 Films: Film 3 of 44: "The Third Man" (1949)
Film 3 of 44:
"The Third Man" (1949)
Directed by Carol Reed
Holly Martins, a broke and washed-out American author travels to post WW2 Vienna at the request of his old friend, Harry Lime. Martins arrives to find that Lime was run over by a truck and his funeral has just begun. After paying his respects, Martins devotes much of the remaining screen time to investigating his friend's "accidental" death, all the while provoking the attention and frustration of the combined occupying police force comprising the Americans, Russians, British and French. This unique set-up and environment make for relentless and charming drama. It's particularly entertaining to see Martins, dull-eyed and perpetually unlucky, experience a rejuvenation from this unexpected murder mystery. A potential love interest shows up, allies come and go, and twists wait around almost every chiaroscuro cobbled street.
This is a classic piece of film noir by way of drama, thriller and comedy. It innovated visual and storytelling conventions that are still imitated today. It's a dense and spirited work, and boy has it aged well. Reed's direction and cinematographer Robert Krasker's visuals followed the Hollywood formalities of the time; eccentric worlds where deep-voiced leading men use dense dialogue to spar with lesser men and woo gorgeously-lit damsels. Still, they employed a perception and ambition whose allure abides. Also, the acting turns from Joseph Cotten, Alida Valli and Orson Welles are exemplary. Of course they are.
See you tomorrow!