In a list of my 100 favorite movies which I posted on my other blog last year (and which I really need to amend), THE THIRD MAN was #17….
It’s a great film thick with the atmosphere of a corrupt and rotting post-WWII Vienna where anything is for sale….It features imaginatively constructed scenes of suspense (the parrot, the little boy, and the final chase in the sewers are three that come to mind) and a shocking revelation about 2/3’s through the film….When Orson Welles (as the film’s villain) first appears, it is a genuine surprise and the scene on the Ferris wheel between him and the film’s hero played by Joseph Cotton is fantastic….Cotton, BTW, was an underrated actor who was gifted with both matinee idol features and a sort of restrained edginess that shone through exceptionally in his performance as a villain in Alfred Hitchcock’s SHADOW OF A DOUBT.
This may be Orson Welles greatest film despite the fact he is not credited with directing it….The rumor is he actually did direct most of the scenes and I can believe it considering the resulting product.
THE THIRD MAN also has a great soundtrack featuring a zither which plucked gives a really uncomfortable feeling to the proceedings….
Recently, I saw THE GOOD GERMAN which on the surface has some similarities with THE THIRD MAN….The same corrupt atmosphere (in this case Germany immediately following the end of WWII), a female character more interested in survival than morality, a hero who gets roughed up a lot and grows increasingly more cynical as the story progresses, another character believed dead who shows up alive (in this case a good guy) plus black and white cinematography that apes the golden days of cinema.
THE GOOD GERMAN however is nowhere near as original as THE THIRD MAN….It is though a worthwhile attempt to make a film that both critiques American double standard morality….In this case, turning a blind eye to Nazi war criminals entering the USA as long as they are of use to the burgeoning nuclear program….and also acts as a homage to classic films….Stephen Soderbergh’s black and white visuals do get a little runny in the scenes that take place during the day but the night scenes are really well-done.
The ending, which is kind of the reverse of CASABLANCA, stressing selfishness over sacrifice in an airfield goodbye, is really a fitting and powerful climax.
George Clooney has made some interesting and worthy films this decade and here is yet another one….Since he has the rugged features of a classic movie star rather than today’s metrosexual pretty boy, he is perfect for this type of role….Cate Blanchett almost lapses into self-parody as the German femme fatale but never quite crosses the line….It is weird also seeing Tobey MacGuire (Spider Man) in a supporting role cursing, having sex, and punching a woman in the stomach and beating another guy with a pipe.
When Hollywood can still produce a film like this made in this style with A list actors and decent production values, it diminishes my cynicism about filmmaking.