Thursday, January 4, 2024

The Third Man

A restored print of The Third Man (1949) is currently playing at Film Forum. Reconsider your decision not to go on the basis of how many times you've seen it. The dramatic angle shots that permeate the movie are a metaphor for the way art plays tricks on perception and, in fact, life itself. Like one of the sewer rats to which Harry Lime (Orson Welles) bears comparison, it squirms out of reach, just as you are about to catch it. The movie will not be tamed no matter how many times you see it. Remember the hilarious scene where Holly (Joseph Cotton) is struck dumb when asked by participants in a literary group what he thinks about "stream of consciousness." He's a writer but not the kind who's heard of Joyce. Or think back to the scene at The Prater where Harry gives his famous "cuckoo clock" speech ("in Switzerland they had brotherly love, they had 500 years of democracy and peace and what did they produce? the cuckoo clock") against the web of the Ferris wheel. It's a perfect vantage point for Carol Reed's camera scours Vienna's bombed out landscape of Neo-Renaissance figurines as Harry presents his derogation of history. Or that long shot where Holly sees Anna for the last time. "Midway in the journey of our life, I woke to find myself in a dark wood, for I had wandered off from the straight path." Holly (or is he Holy?), a writer of Zane Grey-like westerns doesn't know about The Inferno, until he's caught in one. BTW the movie's jagged angularity set the style for Elia Kazan's East of Eden (1955) and Orson Welles's The Trial (1962).

listen to the playlist for The Kafka Studies Department on Largehearted Boy

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