SleepyDogFilms

The Third Man (1949)

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Tonight I had the opportunity to watch The Third Man (1949) in its entirety. Before, I had only seen from the first reveal of Orson Welles to the end and loved it. This time, watching the entire thing, I did not enjoy it as much. The ending (especially the cinematography) was brilliant, but I felt the rest of it was quite slow. What do you think?

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I think it is visually impressive but overrated. The zither on the soundtrack is one of several gimmicks. The film seems slow in spots because we go so long without Welles having real direct bearing on the action-- it's like a huge delay until something finally starts to happen. It's effective in terms of its atmosphere and mood, but from a narrative standpoint it's quite far-fetched and disappointing.

 

Pauline Kael's greatest criticism concerns the role Cotten plays. She says he's a character with commonplace illusions and that his eventual disillusion is not compelling. In her opinion, he comes across as a shallow ineffectual American stereotype. She doesn't blame Cotten for it or even Reed, but rather Greene who has a simplistic view of Americans.

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It"s not overrated think about it, English, German, and Russian spoken no subs, a great International Noir if there ever was one. 10/10

 

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I think it is visually impressive but overrated. The zither on the soundtrack is one of several gimmicks. The film seems slow in spots because we go so long without Welles having real direct bearing on the action-- it's like a huge delay until something finally starts to happen. It's effective in terms of its atmosphere and mood, but from a narrative standpoint it's quite far-fetched and disappointing.

 

Pauline Kael's greatest criticism concerns the role Cotten plays. She says he's a character with commonplace illusions and that his eventual disillusion is not compelling. In her opinion, he comes across as a shallow ineffectual American stereotype. She doesn't blame Cotten for it or even Reed, but rather Greene who has a simplistic view of Americans.

I agree with you about Welles. It seems as if the picture got better once he entered.

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I agree with you about Welles. It seems as if the picture got better once he entered.

 

In my opinion, it would have been better if Harry Lime (Welles) was established as a main character in the first 15-20 minutes. Give him some substantial screen time, then "kill him off." Then have Cotten arrive and investigate, eventually finding out he's really still alive. I think the off-screen death really hurts the story...we have no reason to care about what Harry Lime does or what he means if he remains vague for most of the picture's running time.

 

But if we get to know Harry, then shockingly see him "die," we are on the same emotional level as Cotten-- tricked/fooled just like he is. That would make Harry's re-emergence even more spectacular.

 

As it is, the whole thing is just a series of gimmicks and it's very unsatisfying. It's one of those rare 'classic pictures' I like less with each subsequent viewing.

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In my opinion, it would have been better if Harry Lime (Welles) was established as a main character in the first 15-20 minutes. Give him some substantial screen time, then "kill him off." Then have Cotten arrive and investigate, eventually finding out he's really still alive. I think the off-screen death really hurts the story...we have no reason to care about what Harry Lime does or what he means if he remains vague for most of the picture's running time.

 

But if we get to know Harry, then shockingly see him "die," we are on the same emotional level as Cotten-- tricked/fooled just like he is. That would make Harry's re-emergence even more spectacular.

 

As it is, the whole thing is just a series of gimmicks and it's very unsatisfying. It's one of those rare 'classic pictures' I like less with each subsequent viewing.

You are right. The only thing we know about the friendship between Lime and Cotten's character is what Cotten tells us. But perhaps, the point is that everything that Cotten's character believed about Lime is only from his perspective and not reality.

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You are right. The only thing we know about the friendship between Lime and Cotten's character is what Cotten tells us. But perhaps, the point is that everything that Cotten's character believed about Lime is only from his perspective and not reality.

 

Good point. And in that regard, it would work. But we still need to know why he believed what he did about Lime, and how he had been so easily fooled. In some ways, Greene really did not think it all through-- I think we're only getting a partially completed story. And Reed knows it, so that's why he's making it so stylistically impressive, to camouflage what's really not there.

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What I wonder too is how much the casting of Welles and Cotten together was an attempt to recreate what chemistry they had in Citizen Kane?

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What I wonder too is how much the casting of Welles and Cotten together was an attempt to recreate what chemistry they had in Citizen Kane?

 

Good point. They had also worked on JOURNEY INTO FEAR, which was made shortly after KANE. 

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It's not overrated think about it, English, German, and Russian spoken no subs, a great International Noir if there ever was one. 10/10

 

Along comes Netflix and... Surprise! SUBS!  This Netflix streaming version displays subtitles for all non-English speech including:  German and Russian dialog, Latin funeral rites, the play that Anna appears in, and even for characters in the movie in the theater where Holly and Anna are hiding!  And these subs can't be turned off, so it's an altered version of the movie - The Third Man Netflix Version.

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Along comes Netflix and... Surprise! SUBS!  This Netflix streaming version displays subtitles for all non-English speech including:  German and Russian dialog, Latin funeral rites, the play that Anna appears in, and even for characters in the movie in the theater where Holly and Anna are hiding!  And these subs can't be turned off, so it's an altered version of the movie - The Third Man Netflix Version.

That s-u-x, you always had to just guess the intent of what the others were saying much like Holly Martins had too.

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I find it a little difficult to understand with the strong Austrian or German accents. Maybe if I had a headset it would be a lot easier. I do have some hearing loss.

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