Jun. 21, 2011 - Issue #818: Brian Wilson
The Third Man
It's about a writer of pulp westerns who travels to a rubble-strewn Vienna, a city divided into quarters and jointly governed by uneasy allies, arriving just in time for the funeral of the old, dear friend whom he was meant to visit, whose sudden death, hit by a car on a quiet street in broad daylight, seems suspicious, whose criminal activities just get uglier with every report, and who had a woman who loved him even though she probably knew what kind of bastard he must have been.
The film's director was the very underrated Carol Reed, its screenwriter none other than novelist Graham Greene. It starred Joseph Cotton as the writer, Holly Martens, the boyish, not-so-quiet American who drinks too much and trusts too much; Alida Valli as the lover in danger of being deported; Orson Welles as the key to the titular riddle, so nefariously charismatic, one of the great supporting performances, and clearly an influence on the film's pervading noirishness and parade of wonderful details, including a biting parakeet that may be an homage to that crazy bird screech transition that occurs late in Citizen Kane (1941). It has a zither score by Anton Karas, among the most memorable scores in film history, for reasons that have as much to do with where it is and isn't used (cunningly, sparely, ironically) as with the music itself.
It's about the sort of age-old but no less appalling corruption that seeps into everything, even friendships, culminating in an exchange of bitter betrayals, sinking right down into the Viennese sewers, where the film's shadows and echoes finally close in on our hero and his illusions. The Third Man is beautiful, entertaining and lyrical, cynical in a way that's tough to resist. It's a masterpiece, and whether you've seen it a half-dozen times or never, there aren't many good reasons to miss its brief run this weekend at Metro Cinema.
Opens Fri, Jun 24; Sat, Jun 25; Sun, Jun 26 (7 pm), Sat, Jun 25; Sun, Jun 26; Mon, Jun 27 (9 pm), Metro Cinema (9828 - 101A Ave)
Directed by: Carol Reed
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