A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The Third Man (Carol Reed, 1949)

Joseph Cotten and Alida Valli in The Third Man
Holly Martins: Joseph Cotten
Anna Schmidt: Alida Valli
Harry Lime: Orson Welles
Maj. Calloway: Trevor Howard
Sgt. Paine: Bernard Lee
Porter: Paul Hörbiger
Kurtz: Ernst Deutsch
Popescu: Siegfried Breuer
Dr. Winkel: Erich Ponto
Cribbin: Wilfrid Hyde-White
Anna's Landlady: Hedwig Bleibtreu

Director: Carol Reed
Screenplay: Graham Greene
Cinematography: Robert Krasker
Art direction: Vincent Korda
Film editing: Oswald Hafenrichter
Music: Anton Karas

It's my contention that the mark of a great film is the density of its texture, its ability to let you find something new or different, or simply to remember a forgotten moment, each time you watch it. I have to admit that I wasn't much looking forward to rewatching The Third Man, but I felt obliged since I hadn't seen it for some time and I do have it on my list of great movies. I knew what was coming: the great doorway revelation, the ferris wheel conversation, the chase through the sewers, and Anna walking toward and past Holly along an allée of pollarded trees. But Carol Reed's film is full of so many incidentals that bring even familiar scenes to life. For example, when Anna is picked up by the international police -- a force made up of members of each of Vienna's occupying forces -- she's allowed to pack a bag. It's the Frenchman who reminds her that she has forgotten her lipstick. Touches like this, or Anna's landlady protesting in German that needs no subtitles to get its point across, are essential to the film's greatness. I had forgotten the demon child who fingers Holly as a murderer after the porter's death. I hadn't realized how Robert Krasker's expressionistically tilted camera in much of the film is counterpointed by his concluding shot, the long, foursquare, devastatingly symmetrical take of Anna's walk along the allée. To be sure, there are things that don't quite make sense: Why is a man selling balloons at night in the deserted Vienna streets? And the light that reveals Harry Lime in the doorway comes from no plausible source. But these are moments for quibblers, not for those who luxuriate in cinematic poetry.

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