the third man

March 18, 2008

peter bogdanovich, in an introduction to this film, called it one of the greatest non-auteur films ever made. let’s be frank here pete, this is quite simply one of the greatest films of any kind ever made. i was so awed by every aspect of it – the plotting, the beautiful cinematography, the brilliant score, and just about every single performance.

i don’t know much about carol reed, but what he achieves in this film is enough to make me seek out his other works. to start with, every single image is packed with meaning and information. each frame, particularly prior to harry lime’s first appearance, is just a little bit off, either in terms of lighting or balance. this serves as a constant reminder that there is something not quite right about the information that has been provided to us thus far.

this is not to mention the score, which is both alarmingly unique and tonally perfect. i’m not sure i’ll get the music out of my head for the next several days, and i expect that it’ll be the first thing that comes to mind when i think of the film hereafter. just as there is not a single missed frame, i don’t think anton karas’ score misses a single beat.

lastly, the performances are incredibly cohesive, particularly those of joseph cotten (who i loved in hitchcock’s shadow of a doubt) with old friend orson welles (with whom he appeared in citizen kane). then of course, there’s anna schmidt (credited as valli), whose wonderful performance was mimicked to great effect by cate blanchett in soderbergh’s the good german.

this is a film i can’t wait to watch again, likely with one of the many commentaries available. it is also one that is considered to contain among the greatest entrances and endings of all time, two honors with which i would not disagree.

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6 Responses to “the third man”


  1. This is one of the few films that completely won me over within ten seconds of starting. The first shot during the credits and the music convinced me within a very short period of time that I was in good hands and should just give myself over to the film.

    -RT


  2. If you want to watch more Carol Reed, I can recommend “The Fallen Idol” (available from Criterion) and “Odd Man Out”, they are both great.

  3. thetaproductions Says:

    RT – Yeah I sorta felt the same way. Everything about the film just worked so well together, and I’m not sure I articulated just how perfect I think it is. Thanks for the suggestions, Magnus, I’ve added them to my queue.


  4. I totally agree with you, and thanks for reminding me Joseph Cotten was indeed the villian in “Shadow of a Doubt” (another of my favorite films), and that Cate Blanchett was indeed mimicking Valli in “The Good German.”

    Check out my thoughts on “The Third Man”:

    http://davethenovelist.wordpress.com/2008/04/01/a-review-of-carol-reeds-the-third-man/

  5. Wowser Says:

    My favourite (well, the only Carol Reed film I’ve seen) is Our Man in Havana. It’s one of my favourite films based on one of my favourite books. The Nazis at Criterion don’t seem to have added it to their canon. Twits.

  6. johnheberle Says:

    i just want to add that when orson welles steps out of the darkness and reveals himself to joseph cotton, it might be my favorite moment in the history of cinema.


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