Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Third Man

Carole Reed, 1949, bw (8.6*)
Grand Jury Prize, Cannes
[Our 800th film review]

Classic mystery-suspense film from an often overlooked director, who also directed the classic films Odd Man Out, the Oscar®-winning best picture Oliver! (1967), and my favorite, Joseph Conrad’s Outcast of the Islands, a moody and emotional existential drama about white men among tropical Pacific islanders in a hard to reach eden surrounded by ocean reefs.

In this story based on a Graham Greene novel, Joseph Cotton travels to post-war Vienna after hearing of the death of a friend, Harry Lyme (Orson Welles). In his search for exactly what happened, he begins to uncover a web of deceit, and perhaps finds out more than he bargains for when first starting out.

Beautifully shot in noirish black-and-white, it features a chase in the sewers that is reminiscent of that in the novel (and subsequent films) Les Miserables. I can’t reveal too much without spoiling an important part of the mystery for new viewers.

Probably the only negative here for me is the incessant zither music that is more akin to an outdoor café in Istanbul than a mystery – I found it totally intruding on the suspense of the film and also totally unnecessary, not adding anything positive to the experience of this film.

It’s a odd choice, as the only other music I remember in any Reed film was in the actual musical Oliver!, in which someone had the crazy idea of setting Charles Dickens’ novel Oliver Twist as a Broadway musical! (“One boy, one boy for sale!”) It worked in a bizarre modern psychosis kind of way, but did win a directing Oscar for Reed himself, long overdue for better films. Still, all his work is worth seeing, he’s a master.

This is now 23rd all-time on our top 1000 in our 2011 update of the Top Ranked 1000 Films on the Net, all polls, and is #68 on the IMDB top 250 (so the critics liked it even more than the public, it's higher on our compendium of polls).This was the Grand Prize winner at Cannes, and won an Oscar® for the cinematography of Robert Krasker.

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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.

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