Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sublimity in the Sewers

So we all know that movies that strike us with awe are harder to write about than movies that fill us with contempt or even ambivalence. Or at least they are for me. But I thought I'd take a crack at it, especially since my recent trip back to The Third Man not only made me realize that I admire it even more than I thought I did, but astonished me with just how much contagious fun it is. Plus, when so much else has already been written about a movie, it's a smart check against nattering on too long! Hope you enjoy, and let me know what you think...

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Blogger Calum Reed said...

I've only seen The Third Man once (and that was about a year ago) so I definitely need to see the film again. However, my thoughts...

I understand what you're saying about the comedy/tragedy element. It's all very much Lady Vanishes/Green For Danger-esque in that the British amble around serious subjects in an all too casual way, which always seemed to me admirable in philosophy and (if done well) forgivable in tone. But I didn't think the initial mystery surrounding Harry was juicy enough to be treated so casually without coming over as tedious at times. It's a strange film. The grand noir-style direction, and that sewer sequence in particular, feels like an inappropriate way to present the culmination of a pretty tepid set of events. It came across as completely over-done and over-styled.

I like the humour and the politics but overall I don't think everything quite comes together as it should.

8:26 AM, September 15, 2008  
Blogger Y Kant Goran Rite said...

The first time I caught The Third Man on a big screen was barely two weeks ago. At this point in time, it's my favourite film. I'm not sure if this is my favourite Third Man review, but it's definitely a strong contender. As I'm presently struck with awe by both film and review, I have nothing more to add.

11:07 AM, September 15, 2008  
Blogger John T said...

Reading one of your reviews is like wandering into Vienna-scenic, mysterious, and lyrical. Oh, and always magical. :)

The only thing I really can add at the moment is how can you focus on the tragedy/comedy elements without going into that fabulous ferris wheel turn? That beautiful scene, with Harry's wry smile hiding the inner demon behind good charm and shrewd candor. Definitely shows both sides of the mask. I think this may be one of the best supporting turns in film history.

9:13 PM, September 15, 2008  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

@Cal: That's a totally fair and interesting point about the possible over-direction and over-stylization of the piece, though I'm sure it's all in the eye of the beholder. Those are the same qualities that make me feel like The Third Man has always got its mind on even bigger troubles and crimes even as it starts portioning out the details of its specific narrative.

@Goran: Coming from you, that's an especially nice compliment!

@John: I certainly won't deny that Welles is great in this movie, but I actually thought this time through that his dialogue on the ferris wheel scene was a bit over-written... sort of a verbal corollary to Cal's reservation about the movie sometimes overdoing itself. But I definitely agree about what a kick it is to see him vacillate between so many states of thought and emotion so quickly. I think he and Trevor Howard both deserved supporting noms, though I'd still have voted for George Sanders (and even Sam Jaffe) over both of them. It was a stunning year.

12:51 AM, September 16, 2008  

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