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March 2019



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Film Noir

Yesterday evening I watched one of the greatest films ever made: Carol Reed’s The Third Man. This was broadcast on television as part of the ‘Orson Welles Christmas Season’ but I don’t see why Welles should get all the credit. Let’s hear it for the director, the cameraman, the actors Joseph Cotten and Trevor Howard; everyone who had a part in making it.

I was trying to imagine the film in colour and it absolutely wouldn’t work. It’s full of unforgettable images: the bombed city, the long road, the Prater, the cat, the sewers; the extraordinary menace of the laughing child, like some demonic infant Peter Lorre. The film recreates marvellously the feeling of a divided post-war city with a floating population of displaced persons. I think this is helped by having so much of the dialogue in untranslated German. It’s about love, loss, betrayal, disillusionment; every shot of the empty streets, the bare trees, the wonderful overcoats and hats they wore in those days, shrieks ‘cold’. Bleak? You bet, yet I could watch it over and over again.

It wouldn’t be the same without the music, the famous zither theme played by Anton Karas.

When I was a child we had the sheet music arranged for the piano, exactly like this

I used to strum the tune, although of course I’d never seen the film. I think I'll have to buy a copy.


I watched this recently after the trip to Vienna and also thought what an amazing film it is. Now you've mentioned the music of course, I can't get it out of my head! I think we had 45s when I was a child of this and the theme from Zorba the Greek! I played both of them alot - like you never having seen the films.
I felt in awe, watching. Can't get the music out of my head, either!
Wasn't Greene involved with the screenplay as well? It does feel very true to the book.
Yes, he wrote the screenplay and it shows.
oh, do!
Yes, film noir definitely has a double meaning here! Sorry about the music :-)
One of my favourite films ever, that one - it's amazing seen on the big screen. We've got a few of the 'The Lives of Harry Lime' radio programmes on cassette somewhere.

(Did you know there's talk of a remake with diCaprio in the Harry Lime role. I kid you not. Why remake a *great* film?! Why not do a better version of an average one?)
Why indeed! How can you improve on perfection? And it won't work in colour.
You highlight such interesting things, CMM, which otherwise would have passed me by. Shall find it on Iplayer.
As it was on over Christmas, it may no longer be there (I recorded it) but it's bound to be on again.