Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Third Man



The Third Man [Blu-ray]

The Third Man is a 1949 British film noir, directed by Carol Reed and starring Joseph Cotten, Alida Valli, Orson Welles and Trevor Howard. Many critics rank it as a masterpiece, particularly remembered for its atmospheric cinematography, performances, and unique musical score. The screenplay was written by novelist Graham Greene, who subsequently published the novella of the same name (which he had originally written as a preparation for the screenplay). Anton Karas wrote and performed the score, which used only the zither; its title cut topped the international music charts in 1950.

Joseph Cotten as Holly Martins
Alida Valli as Anna Schmidt
Orson Welles as Harry Lime
Trevor Howard as Major Calloway
Bernard Lee as Sgt. Paine
Wilfrid Hyde-White as Crabbin
Erich Ponto as Dr. Winkel
Ernst Deutsch as 'Baron' Kurtz
Siegfried Breuer as Popescu
Paul Hörbiger as Karl, Harry's Porter
Hedwig Bleibtreu as Anna's Landlady
Robert Brown as British Military Policeman in Sewer Chase
Alexis Chesnakov as Brodsky
Herbert Halbik as Hansl
Paul Hardtmuth as the Hall Porter at Sacher's
Geoffrey Keen as British Military Policeman
Eric Pohlmann as Waiter at Smolka's
Annie Rosar as the Porter's Wife
Joseph Cotten as the Narrator (pre-1999 US version)
Carol Reed as the Narrator (pre-1999 UK, and all post-'99 versions)

The atmospheric use of black-and-white expressionist cinematography by Robert Krasker, with harsh lighting and distorted camera angles, is a key feature of The Third Man. Combined with the unique theme music, seedy locations, and acclaimed performances from the cast, the style evokes the atmosphere of an exhausted, cynical post-war Vienna at the start of the Cold War. The film's unusual camera angles, however, were not appreciated by all critics at the time. C. A. Lejeune in The Observer described Reed's "habit of printing his scenes askew, with floors sloping at a diagonal and close-ups deliriously tilted" as "most distracting". American director William Wyler, a close friend of Reed's, sent him a spirit level, with a note saying, "Carol, next time you make a picture, just put it on top of the camera, will you?"
Through the years there was occasional speculation that Welles, rather than Reed, was the de facto director of The Third Man. Film scholar Jonathan Rosenbaum, in his 2007 book, Discovering Orson Welles, calls it a "popular misconception", although Rosenbaum did note that the film "began to echo the Wellesian theme of betrayed male friendship and certain related ideas from Citizen Kane." In the final analysis, Rosenbaum writes, Welles "didn’t direct anything in the picture; the basics of his shooting and editing style, its music and meaning, are plainly absent. Yet old myths die hard, and some viewers persist in believing otherwise." Welles himself fuelled this theory with an interview he gave in 1958, in which he said that he had had an important role in making The Third Man, but that it was a “delicate matter, because [he] wasn’t the producer”. However, he later admitted in a 1967 interview with Peter Bogdanovich that his involvement was minimal: "It was Carol's picture", he said. However, Welles did contribute some of the film’s best-known dialogue. Bogdanovich also stated in the introduction to the DVD:
However, I think it’s important to note that the look of The Third Man— and, in fact, the whole film—would be unthinkable without Citizen Kane, The Stranger, and The Lady from Shanghai, all of which Orson made in the ’40s, and all of which preceded The Third Man. Carol Reed, I think, was definitely influenced by Orson Welles, the director, from the films he had made

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