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Dr. Rich Edwards

Daily Dose of Darkness #16: Postwar British Noir (Scene from The Third Man)

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-- What makes Harry Lime's (Orson Welles) "entrance" in this film so effective?

Like someone else said, the first moments of this scene immerse us in Holly Martins' POV, so we're more or less looking for Harry Lime before we see it. We first see his shoes, next to the cat, and somewhat we identify him with this cat which seems so indifferent to Martins' words. He's hiding in the dark, like some alley cat, and when the woman turns on the light, thus revealing Harry's face, the camera focuses on his smile and on the mocking gleam in his eyes.

 

-- Discuss how this scene is both deeply realistic (in its depiction of a war-torn Vienna) and highly formalistic (in its use of a variety of non-realistic camera, lighting and musical techniques).

It's realistic because it was shot at night, in Vienna - I bet some places shown here are recognizable if you live there or if you visited the city.

When trying to describe this scene's elements of formalism, the word that comes to mind is 'baroque', not only because of the buildings and sculptures. Since the beginning of this scene, something is askew: the ground looks uneven, the bizarre angles are disturbing and we're soon as disoriented as Holly Martins (when he turns around and tries to follow Harry).

 

-- In what ways can this scene from The Third Man be considered an important contribution to the film noir style?

The bizarre angles, the low-key lighting, the music (a bit... out of step) and the humorous lines in the dialogue are some of the characteristics of film noir I find here.

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The scene is realistic (a postwar moment, city, enviroment) but it's also formalist.

The way Harry Lime appears, he looks like a ghost, a magic trick, something you can watch one moment and dissapear then.

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Welles entrance into the scene is beautifully accidental.  The cat squeals, alerting Cotton.  The lady in the window shines light on Welles' face.  He smiles wryly.  The light goes out, and he escapes, becoming a running shadow against the buildings, lighted by streetlamps.  He is gone as quickly as he appeared.  The scene builds tension from Welles' smile and Cotton's recognition of the face.  "Harry!" Cotton says.  The audience naturally wonders who are these men?  Why is Welles being pursued?  Why is Cotton the pursuer?  What is their past that allows Cotton to recognize Welles as "Harry."

 

The zither music also ratchets up the tension, making the scene as odd as the camera angles and the running shadow on the walls.  These are formalistic elements whereas realism comes from the cobbled streets, the ornate, arched doorways, the woman speaking in a foreign language and the tiny cat.

 

The scene adds to the noir style with the presence of the zither music, which must be unique to this film.  Also, the scene takes place at night, is minimally lighted by streetlamps and uses shadows to great effect with Welles' running shadow.

 

 

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Absolutely the most noir character entrance of any noir film!  That weird zither music (that is - weird to American ears), camera work and lighting make this film a masterpiece. I also think the film's ending scene is superbly presented. Leaving the cemetery after Harry Lime's final burial, Holly gets out of Callaway's jeep and waits for the approaching Anna who is walking rapidly forward. Anna walks past Holly totally ignoring him, not even moving her head - walking ahead into a very uncertain future. I can sense what the characters were feeling in that scene. Anna was bitter about Harry's death; even though he had turned bad, she still loved Harry for what he once was, while Holly felt he did what had to be done - and with Harry's consent, a final gesture of the friendship they once had. 

I have viewed this film multiple times and will continue to do so. A sign of a truly great film is the satisfaction and enjoyment of seeing it again and again!

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I will be in the minority when I say I cannot support this film as a true noir gem. The story is centered around a plot that (for me) is strangely unexciting and predictable. Both characters are unconvincing. And I disagree that the score is what everyone says it is. Personally I think it works at a counter point to the film. As a musician, I realize that it's not un-fitting for post-war Vienna, drawing from old world folk music and traits. But in my mind it's too jarring and unfitting it to be a decent score.  

This movie has stood the test of time, but I feel it's merits are rather shortcoming. And I do not see the film as stone faced noir. Martins is a doofus, and there's just too much of a spirit of fun here, especially given the montrous subject matter. The film indeed explores the blurred lines of morality and the ubiquitous presence of evil in society. But I consider Carol Reed's "Odd Man Out" a FAR superior film to The Third Man, even though "The Third Man" is generally considered Reed's masterpiece.
 

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I will be in the minority when I say I cannot support this film as a true noir gem. The story is centered around a plot that (for me) is strangely unexciting and predictable. Both characters are unconvincing. And I disagree that the score is what everyone says it is. Personally I think it works at a counter point to the film. As a musician, I realize that it's not un-fitting for post-war Vienna, drawing from old world folk music and traits. But in my mind it's too jarring and unfitting it to be a decent score.  

 

This movie has stood the test of time, but I feel it's merits are rather shortcoming. And I do not see the film as stone faced noir. Martins is a doofus, and there's just too much of a spirit of fun here, especially given the montrous subject matter. The film indeed explores the blurred lines of morality and the ubiquitous presence of evil in society. But I consider Carol Reed's "Odd Man Out" a FAR superior film to The Third Man, even though "The Third Man" is generally considered Reed's masterpiece.

 

Thank you for saying this.  I haven't seen the film yet, but I can tell you that this clip did not inspire me to want to see more.

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I know Reed is the director of this film, but I have to wonder if Welles had some creative input.  Hard to imagine the great Welles being part of the cast and staying silent while someone else had complete creative control.  Who else would use an exit for an entrance?

 

 

Welles had a lot of input on the famous speech he gives about cuckoo clocks, writing much if not all of it, but he had no directorial input. The film doesn't really show any of his typical style, although a rumor has persisted for years that Welles directed much of the film. He denied that, however, and if you watch any of Carol Reed's other films you'll see that he has more than enough talent to have directed this film.

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Wk 4 The Third Man

 

-- What makes Harry Lime's (Orson Welles) "entrance" in this film so effective?  It was effective for me until the light was turned on his face.  The skewed camera angles, great. The cat between his feet, great.  The angry woman turning on her light, great.  His expression?  Not effective to me.  Took me right out of the scene.  It was “Orson Welles” guesting on a variety show:  “Ladies and Gentlemen, tonight’s special guest, Mr. Orson Welles!”  I may retract this after I see the movie, but right now that’s what I see. 

 

-- Discuss how this scene is both deeply realistic (in its depiction of a war-torn Vienna) and highly formalistic (in its use of a variety of non-realistic camera, lighting and musical techniques).   In the first few shots, we see the scene lit by its natural light.  The first shot of the building is from the normal angle; the camera is level.  The second shot of the building has the camera at an angle: is something in this building “skewed?” When the camera moves in on Welles, it’s subjective.  The next close up on Cotten is a little skewed, plus it looks like it was shot with a wide angle lens brought close causing a little “loomy” facial distortion, a reflection of his excitement/fear at having seen Harry. (I have not seen this film. Yet.)  Once we hear the footsteps running, there’s more skewing, low angles.  Once the shadow’s gone, the remaining shots are not skewed and are level.  The last shot of the kiosk seems realistic, almost as if Harry’s presence creates distortion in the world and once he’s gone, everything returns to normal.  The town square looks surprisingly fresh and free from clutter, glistening from a recent rainfall.  The only part of its image that might indicate that it’s “war-torn” is the feeling that it’s deserted.  Not a single person except for the abruptly awakened woman and the police.  With due respect to all you zither lovers out there, I am not partial to the grating sound of that instrument, and the thought of hearing it, even intermittently, over the length of a feature film, is not appealing.

 

-- In what ways can this scene from The Third Man be considered an important contribution to the film noir style?  Adding the international to the noir mix at the actual place.  Giving a more realistic tone by bringing studio quality production values to a remote location.  Also, filming where something akin to the subject matter may have happened.  

 

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I'm going to begin by saying I am not a fan of Orson Welles. I find Citizen Kane to be a bit overrated and have never really enjoyed his other films, like Touch of Evil. I enjoy his appearance on I Love Lucy, but I think it's more because of his interaction with Lucille Ball.

 

That being said, I am interested in his entrance in this film and I'm thinking about studying his performance in this film and the film in general. I am unsure what to make of this film. On the one hand it seems incredibly formalistic with the camera angles, lighting choice, and especially the music in this scene. To me, it seemed like this film almost took the film noir elements and made them comic. When the music hit a crescendo right before Joseph Cotton and others discover a hidden passageway, I almost laughed because it was such an unusual (in my opinion) decision. I think that the only way this film can fall under the realist category was that it was not shot on a sound stage, although considering that was rarely done in those days, it's enough to make it more realistic than, say The Big Sleep.

 

What surprised me, since I am not a great Orson Welles fan, was that I was most interested in studying Welles' brief appearance in the scene. The entrance was one of the more amazing entrances I've seen this week; even though I could guess that Orson Welles was hidden in the shadows before the light came on, because the timing of his entrance was so specific and the way in which he was revealed was unexpected, it was still a surprise to me. Welles' entrance reminded me of how hypnotic his performances were, even if I'm not his biggest fan. He didn't have to say anything, he just looked playfully at Joseph Cotten and that was enough. Quite fascinating.

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The opening scene of The Third Man uses practically ever film noir technique in just that one scene.  Close up shots of both Cotten and Welles, the camera at a low angle and going up to Welles' face, a huge spotlight on Welles' face and than going black, Welles' shadow as he runs away and finally the music that tells us something not so nice is going to happen.  I think it is going to be hard to choose this week which movies to watch.  

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First, if I may, indulge in a moment of complete and utter lack of decorum: “Y-Y-Y-YIPPEE!!! It’s another Graham Greene screenplay! I love this movie!” Ahem. Thank you.

 

-- What makes Harry Lime's (Orson Welles) "entrance" in this film so effective?

 

Harry Lime is believed dead and buried. However, the kitten knows different. We get a hint of this just prior to this scene when Holly visits Anna in the middle of the night and she tells him the no-name kitten “only liked Harry”. So the scene is building up to his “entrance”. Holly has just left Anna’s rooms and is wandering through the streets. Long dark shadows follow him wherever he goes. The doorway is framed at an angle, looking sinister, forlorn and foreboding. Holly notices the feet and legs in the doorway with the cat sitting on the feet, and assumes it’s another “satchel foot” tailing him. Holly immediately starts taunting him, just as he has done throughout the movie, until a resident turns on a light and opens a window to yell at him to shut up (people are trying to sleep here). Lit by that single light is Harry’s face, with that boyish grin and mischievous expression. The music is jarring, consisting only of strumming as the notes go higher and higher, creating tension. the angles alternate right and left from shot to shot, first only the kitten is lit while its sitting on the feet washing itself (something cats do only upon humans they totally trust), then only Harry’s face is lit (like a baby spot) when Holly sees him; then, when the light comes on from above, Harry’s face is in full light. Then Harry disappears just as fast as he appeared out of nowhere into nowhere.

 

-- Discuss how this scene is both deeply realistic (in its depiction of a war-torn Vienna) and highly formalistic (in its use of a variety of non-realistic camera, lighting and musical techniques).

 

War torn Vienna itself is a major character in this movie -- maybe even the femme fatal. She is ravaged, worn out, down at the heels, penniless, desperate and scraping bottom for her existence (as exemplified by the exotic dancers and hookers at the bar(s) where Harry goes drinking). We see constant reminders of her former glorious beauty in the statues that are miraculously still among the rubble in the streets, the columns and architecture of the bombed buildings and craters, in the interiors of rooms (fireplace mantels, porcelain heaters, window and doorway decorations and grand staircases) which appear to be former mansions chopped up into little apartments, and in the artifacts which the black market racketeers have amassed in their homes (contrasting with the sparse furnishings of Anna’s and others rooms).

 

The music, performed by Anton Karas, a landmark soundtrack (which Roger Ebert describes as “jaunty but without joy”) played on the zither, a highly unusual instrument choice in itself for a film noir. Throughout the movie the zither seems to taunt, tease, rejoice, and mourn what was once Vienna. It is the carnival gone sour.

 

The low-key lighting, in addition to being classical noir, also reflects the deprivation Vienna is undergoing at this time period. No one has enough light. Everything is in shadows. There is a dark background everywhere. This sets the mood of the story.

 

The non-realistic camera angles such as those in the scene today (and in the ending during the chase through the sewers) throws in a visual a sense of surrealism. It is hard to orient oneself to the locations in the scenes. The post-war occupation by the four victorious allies throws Vienna off balance as it is split into sectors.

 

-- In what ways can this scene from The Third Man be considered an important contribution to the film noir style?

 

“It wasn’t the German Gin.” What a line. This signals a turning point in the plot of the whole story. We now know Harry’s alive and Calloway (“not Callahan”) must now start taking Holly more seriously and stop thinking him as a mere buffoon. Conversely, Holly now has to face some very hard facts about his lifelong friend Harry. Holly’s loyalty is hard to break (as is Anna’s), and we now realize this has to happen.

 

As for contribution to film noir style, this scene is a real thunderbolt. Even if an astute movie watcher had figured out Harry is not dead before this scene comes up, those loose ends hanging from the beginning of the movie start coming together. Mr. Orson Welles himself is probably the key element to this scene being what it is. I cannot think of another actor who could have made that impact/entrance. What a presence. And Joseph Cotten plays off that so well. Cotten is wonderful in this movie – almost against type in his bumbling and denseness, but not quite. He played romantics very well, and he uses that to great advantage in this movie. His hopeless love for Anna is testament to that. (Although I have a hard time buying into that infatuation and think that is the weakest part of the story. But this is typical Graham Greene. Perhaps it is meant to show Holly’s humanity and his biggest weakness – he is quick to love and completely loyal to those he loves.)

 

It should be obvious this is one of my favorite movies of all time and all genres.

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The opening scene of The Third Man uses practically ever film noir technique in just that one scene.  Close up shots of both Cotten and Welles, the camera at a low angle and going up to Welles' face, a huge spotlight on Welles' face and than going black, Welles' shadow as he runs away and finally the music that tells us something not so nice is going to happen.  I think it is going to be hard to choose this week which movies to watch.  

 This person pretty much summarized everything I was going to say about this film.

 

The cat definitely gives him away, with its loud mewing.  The diagonals are seen only in shots of Welles, while they are normal with Cotten.  You only see Welles' s legs until the irate woman turns on the light and hollers at Cotten. But Cotten is oblivious to her, and he only sees Welles's face in the light.

 

Welles's entrance is a bit startling, but then again he was known for a lot of dramatic, over the top entrances in film and radio as well.

 

He disappears as quickly as he reappears when the car drives in front of Cotten. We only hear his footsteps briefly as the zither music picks up the tempo for the chase.

 

The zither music also grabs your attention when the officer looks straight at the column and realizes where Welles vanished to.

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The Third Man is one of the best examples of post-war realism merging with formalist lighting, camera angles typical of noir.   Many would regard it, and Dassin's Night and the City, as the pinnacle of British noir, and two of the very best films noir ever made, anywhere, anytime.  

 

The scene where Holly Martin's finally glimpses Harry Lime --- presumed until now to be dead --- in the shadow of the doorway, abruptly illuminated by the light and opening of a window on the opposite side of street --- is one of the great entrances for a character in all of film.    

 

Martin's believes he's being followed by one of Major Callaway's agents, only to glimpse his old friend smirking at him out of harsh key lighting against a backdrop of blackness.   Seeing Lime confirms Martins' suspicions about Lime presumed death, but it raises more questions than it does answers; especially when he tries to catch the fleeting shadow of Lime as he races around the corner and vanishes into thin air.

 

It's visually and psychologically a disturbing scene to the viewer as much as it is to Martins, a character who is too sure of his own convictions for his own good.   Lime blooms in his key light, calm, confident, smug, but says nothing as Martins' calls out to him.   A passing car is shown twice...a medium shot from the side, and again from the front as it passes, cutting Martins off.  The dual perspectives adds a split second to Martins' advance; just enough to make plausible Lime's disappearance and flight back into the shadows.       

 

The Third Man ranks, with Laura, among the very best examples of  films, not simply noirs...that succeed in having dead characters drive the story and command the actions of the living.  One could say they literally 'haunt' the story before finally being revealed as still being alive.

 

Director Carol Reed's adept use of war-ravaged Vienna locations as backdrops to this and other scenes throughout the film bring an added sense of urgency and despair to the story; which only serves to make Lime's aloofness, selfishness and amorality that much more disturbing and offensive.   And Harry Lime has his own 'theme music', as the zither begins to play in tandem with Lime's closeup.  

 

A wonderful scene from a wonderful film full of wonderful scenes...this one, of Lime's entrance, the famous 'long shot' that ends the film, the ferris wheel/'cuckoo clock' scene, and of course one of the most frenetic, claustrophobic, noir-ish chase scenes in film history in the (mostly) sewers of Vienna (Welles supposedly refused to do a lot of shooting in the actual sewers, and did much of his work in sound stage replicas).             

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-- What makes Harry Lime's (Orson Welles) "entrance" in this film so effective? First, the cat at his feet, which is the only part of his hiding place that is somewhat in the light at first. The Joseph Cotton character leads us to believe the character hiding in the doorway is a spy following him. During the first closeup shot of Harry Lime, the camera is looking only at his feet, where the cat is cleaning itself, so it’s especially shocking when we see Harry Lime’s face – the only part of him lit by a strong light when the woman upstairs turns on her light.

 

 

-- Discuss how this scene is both deeply realistic (in its depiction of a war-torn Vienna) and highly formalistic (in its use of a variety of non-realistic camera, lighting and musical techniques). The empty streets are dark and uninhabited – not a friendly city at this point in history. The first camera angle in this clip – and others as well -  is extremely off-center – almost on a diagonal, and the lighting is extreme as well – we can’t see Harry Lime at all for much of the scene – he seems to appear out of a dream, and then disappear just as quickly. The music doesn’t make any distinction between “normal” realistic scenes and formalistic ones, which is a bit confusing and leaves you not sure what to expect.

 

 

-- In what ways can this scene from The Third Man be considered an important contribution to the film noir style? The style of the zither music is very distinctive and new for film noir. At first, it doesn’t seem to have much to do with the action, but after awhile, it seems to add to the formalistic atmosphere. Buildings, streets, and statues – and especially the kiosk into which Harry disappears - seem as important as the characters – reminds me of the camera panning over items in the glass case in “Laura,” and telling us to “look at this.”

 

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The dark streets, the lighting, the weird camera angles, the zither music (which I do appreciate, unlike a number of my fellow posters) are so effective, and then there's Welles' "entrance," which is perfect!!  I haven't seen this movie in ages and am now looking forward to watching it tomorrow.  And, obviously, I'll be watching it with a totally new perspective!!

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My second favorite movie entrance, only topped by Robert Duvall as "Boo Radley" in To Kill A Mockingbird.

 

What really sets this entrance apart is that Harry is absolutely still and *silent*. The upstairs light illuminates him like a spotlight and Welles smirks, diverts his eyes and emotes more without saying a word than any dialogue could convey. And then he disappears...

 

Very important to know/remember that Holly is drunk. He just spent days looking for traces of his friend, who he was surprised to hear had died, so he's also distraught, and he's exasperated by the futile search for information and he's about to give up trying. Then...he sees an apparition in a doorway, but when he gets across the street after the car, it's a brick indentation (not a doorway) and no one is there.

 

Then...he hears footsteps and races after them only to emerge in an open square far too big for Lime to have already crossed. He is once again dumfounded and stops by the fountain. At this point I think he is questioning his own sanity, which of course is reinforced by the inspectors finding his story ludicrous. Until they pop open that stairwell to the sewers, there's a part of Holly that is not convinced he wasn't hallucinating. Maybe the audience as well?

 

The obtuse camera angles, zither music (I find it uniquely appropriate) and long shadows, especially in so many night scenes shot in tunnels and around rubble, transform what is really a film that's part mystery, part police procedural and part spy thriller. The lighting is spectacular as are the long shots (especially the last scene).

 

This is one of the absolute greats and Cotton and Welles are wonderful in it. Shockingly this fell off the AFI chart of Top 100 movies in 2007 (it was #57 in 1997)...let's hope that is rectified when they compile the 20th anniversary list in two years. (The British Film Institute (BFI) awarded it the #1 film of the 20th century.)

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The amused look on Orson Welles' face as the camera zeroes in on it is what I thought made the scene so effective. Without a word, his expression conveys perfectly that he is playing a game which might not turn out so well for Joseph Cotten. The carnival-esque zither music and shadowy cinematography are also strong indicators that such is likely the case

 

I feel like the scene was realistic in that it very much seemed to have been shot on location, and that Joseph Cotten's reaction is exactly what one would expect from someone who just saw their friend they thought was dead. However, the formalistic aspect is what stuck out at me, the canted angles and shadows and sound of running feet coming at just the right places to communicate the bewilderment Holly was feeling. And I can't say enough about the camera work in the part where Holly reaches the empty square. The symmetry of the booth in the middle, with the bricks seeming to trail behind it almost as if the booth is a boat, the square is a body of water and the bricks ripples on the water, is one of the most awesome pieces of cinematography I've ever seen.

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The Third Man is widely considered as a classic, and it's perhaps the best example of a European (albeit with American influence and cast members) film noir in the classic period. Although I consider many films less well-known than it to be more exciting and suspenseful than this slow-paced film, its artistic quality of direction and production is second to none for a noir of the era.

 

The war-torn Vienna, where the film is set, is a more sophisticated and lyric setting than the dark corners and alleys of Los Angeles, New York or San Francisco commonly depicted in films noir, yet it's gritty and depressing to realize that a city with such great culture and tradition has become a set of ruins, with crime, underworld and smuggling of goods flourishing. Orson Welles' entrance is the terminal blow; shot with pure noir style, at night and with low-key lighting, any thoughts or hope are vanished. The close-up to Welles' face, accompanied by excellent orchestral music, is almost frightening.

 

Like Dimitrios Makropoulos in The Mask of Dimitrios and Laura Hunt in Laura, Harry Lime (Welles) is a character who is presumed dead but everything in the film has something to do with him. As you hear more and more things about the character during the film, it starts to become obvious that he's probably still alive. As with Laura Hunt's introduction next to her portrait in Laura, Lime's entrance is one of the defining moments of the film, and a genuine masterpiece of a shot by director Carol Reed. He's mysterious, terrifying and dark, his face is motionless when his friend (Joesph Cotten) encounters him. You can't tell what he has done, or what he's planning to do.

 

This scene (and the film, generally), shot in Europe and with mainly European cast, deviates a little from typical American films noir. It can become equally gruesome and grotesque, but it seems somewhat polished compared to the fast-talking, unsophisticated underworld dominating in American noirs. It's a great combination of European culture and American film noir style (itself influenced by the former).

 

 

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I always enjoy watching The Third Man; although, it took me quite a few viewings and outside research to understand the plot. Nonetheless, I've always loved the technical aspects of this film; the chiaroscuro, camera angles, the shadowy figures (especially in the underground tunnel during Lime's chase),

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and the setting (dark alleys, spiral staircases, tunnels, etc.) I also love the music composition. I often play the original soundtrack while I'm grading exams and essays. 

 

What I like about this scene is the air of mystery behind the individual. He never truly reveals himself; it's the happenstance of the light within the apartment that exposes his identity. Lime's facial expression is such a classic, and I always find myself smiling as he does once Martins recognizes him. Considering Martins's and the audience's presumed knowledge of Harry Lime, his appearance comes as a complete surprise and before we can grasp the reality of it, he runs away leaving behind only his running shadow.

 

What contributes the realism is the culture and language of Vienna. I like that it doesn't use subtitles, yet through tone and body language, we get exactly what the woman is saying. We can empathize with Martins as both the stranger and outcast in Vienna. We feel just as lost with him.

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-- What makes Harry Lime's (Orson Welles) "entrance" in this film so effective?

Harry refuses to come out in the open from the shadows and instead stays in the dark. We only see Harry's shoes. But Joseph only sees the cat washing itself. Then we see Harry's smile and know that he won this time.

 

-- Discuss how this scene is both deeply realistic (in its depiction of a war-torn Vienna) and highly formalistic (in its use of a variety of non-realistic camera, lighting and musical techniques).

This night scene is shot in night-for-night in Vienna. We see the real city and it's buildings. And suddenly the mood changes into more formalistic with slanted camera angles and shadows on the building wall and lighting toward the building walls and not on the street. There are bright lights in the background with high depth of field setup. The music in the beginning and at the town square suggests something unknown, the footsteps are important also suggesting he got away.

 

-- In what ways can this scene from The Third Man be considered an important contribution to the film noir style?

This scene from The Third Man is an important contribution to film noir as it uses slanted camera angles, strange lighting with lots of shadows on the building walls. It is also realistic as it is shot at night in Vienna.

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We know that there is someone hiding... A drunken Holly Martins suspected it... a cat helps us see your feet... Finally, a glow from a Department illuminates the close-up of the face of someone who Holly (and more naive viewers) believed dead: a smiling Harry Lime (a superb Orson Welles); giving him a ghostly and sinister appearance. The contrast between that face illuminated in the camera stops, and the prevailing darkness takes angular Chambers, the wet streets of a night Vienna, the zither playing hypnotically, constitute one of the best scenes of the history of the cinema, without a doubt, essentially noir. A little philosophizing, could think that a Vienna destroyed by war is, in itself, at the same time a real scenario and one in the style of German Expressionism, which recreated as well the filmmakers and European technicians in Hollywood. Anyway, the combination between the natural scenery and the dark atmosphere created artificially, is exceptional. Finally, it is true, there is a feedback between pre-war European cinema, the American noir film, and this film by Carol Reed; but we can also think that, after the war, European filmmakers resumed what had left and that some of them moved brilliantly to American cinema.

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Harry Lime's entrance is effective because it's so startling and throws the viewer, just like its protagonist Holly, completely off balance. Holly, appearing not entirely sober and clear-headed, senses the presence of someone spying on him. The cat's cry draws his view to a doorway shrouded in complete blackness. In a shot that's almost an eerie reversal of Cora's entrance  yesterday, Harry appears feet-first out of the dark. For an instant his face is lit in bright, otherworldly light. Holly recognizes him and Harry gives him - and us - an expression that says "fooled you, didn't I?" Then like a ghost Harry flees back into the darkness, leaving behind no proof that he was ever there.

The sequence was shot at night on location in postwar Vienna. But highly formalistic technique serves to distort reality to the extreme, mirroring Holly's mental state and disorienting the viewer. As Harry stumbles about trying to locate his unseen follower the shots are tilted so extremely that they threaten to tip over into complete madness, and no angle matches the one in the following shot.

Also the depth, the third dimension, keeps changing between shots. The one long, wide shot where Holly is placed as a tiny point in the distance, leaning on a rail and calling "come out, come out wherever you are", has a startling and eerie effect. From it we go directly to a close-up on Harry's shoes in the doorway. Our eyes are contantly re-focusing, our mind constantly reorienting itself from shot to shot.

The whole sequence looks surreal, dreamlike. The light on Harry's face can't possibly come from that one window, his fleeing shadow on the wall can't possibly loom so large just from streetlamps. It's weird that in this otherwise deserted street a car drives by just in time to give Harry cover for escape.

then Holly runs through an arch and comes out on the other side into a plaza that's all orderly, straight lines.It's a bit like waking up from a nightmare.

The advertising pillar is placed so prominently in the shot that it screams, "I'm important". But Holly can't see that yet. He finds relief at the water fountain with its cozy cherub. But the stone cherub isn't talking so it gets a spray of water from Holly, which finally breaks the tension. Reality comes back in the next sequence when Holly returns with the British officer and sergeant and the proof is provided that he wasn't drunk or seeing things.

The whole sequence adds to the noir style by pairing a realistic setting with extreme visual style which uses the stark angles and high contrast of Expressionistic cinematograph to create a highly unsettling experience. It also brings a fresh and decidedly un-Hollywoodlike twist on the traditional film score.

The final scene, by the way, of THE THIRD MAN makes the best use EVER of depth in movies. Just an enticement to watch it on Friday! ;)


 

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-- What makes Harry Lime's (Orson Welles) "entrance" in this film so effective?

 

The entrance is very effective because he does not utter a single word of dialogue. You can only see his pants and shoes making this even more of an intriguing scene. You only see the cat licking his/her paws. It was very ingenious for the director to use the light from the upset lady to illuminate Harry's face revealing it to the audience and Joseph Cotten's character.

 

-- Discuss how this scene is both deeply realistic (in its depiction of a war-torn Vienna) and highly formalistic (in its use of a variety of non-realistic camera, lighting and musical techniques).

 

The scene is realistic because it is night and all or the majority of the residents have turned in director evening. The sound that is made as they walk and run on the cobblestone streets is realistic. In addition, the mood is dreary and dark due the the realities of the war. The scene is formalistic in how the building are slanted at a steep angle reminiscent of The Tower of Pisa.

 

-- In what ways can this scene from The Third Man be considered an important contribution to the film noir style?

 

The importance of the movie is because of the exaggerated angles and lights that the camera employs to shoot the scene.

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Lime's entrance is a very effective one. The camera keeps cutting back to the shadowy interior of that wall, where a saint's statue might be, and that cat lickin its paws. The anxious Cotten is yelling at someone he thinks is there, then there is a sudden flash of light on his face. That face is not villainous or solemn but has a lot of humor, he smirks and looks like he is about to laugh. The camera cuts a to wider shot then back to his face and Cotten's reactions a few times as the zither music heightens and the camera zooms in. What makes this so effective is the off-kilter (or oblique) camera angles, the constant and dizzying cuts, the sudden light and then equally sudden darkness again, Lime's humor, and the ridiculous folksy music that somehow builds in tension.

 

Realistic Elements: War-torn Vienna is exemplified by the abandoned streets (a curfew), conversations about spies and secret police, the sound of running across the stones, and the setting of this old city (i.e. fountains, spiraling staircases, cobblestone courtyards and plazas, score using zither, an instrument with German/Austrian origins)

 

Formalistic: Tilted camera angle, chiaroscuro lighting, the image of Cotten chasing a shadow, unusual zither musical score (weird, haunting, and yet humorous – oddly reminded me of The Grand Budapest Hotel Score, also took place in war-torn European city), and disorienting amount of camera cuts (mimicking Cotten's own confusion at seeing a man he thought dead)

 

Like Citizen Kane, The Third Man is a film I've only seen once, but I am so looking forward to seeing it again. Just viewing this scene filled me with the wonder I felt when first saw both of the aforementioned films. That wonder comes from knowing what preceding and following films looked like, and here was something you'd never seen before.

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Limes' Escape:  Not realistically possible.

The Third Man has been one of my favorite movies for a while now.  One thing I never noticed, though, is how Harry Lime literally disappears into thin air.  I watched the scene twice just now (after seeing it numerous times on my own) and only on the second time today did I notice that there is absolutely no way (in a film that is on the surface extremely realistic) that Harry could have run away from Joseph Cotten's character.  Watch it again:  The light goes off, Cotten crosses the street, a car interrupts him, the camera cuts to a side view (no sight or sound of Lime), and he crosses to the doorway where Lime is no longer.  Only then do we hear the footsteps.  But even then there is no sight of Lime escaping, as there most certainly would be, even in the dark.  Far from calling this out as a "mistake", I would say, to use my new vocabulary from this course, that a formalist "escape" was at work in a realistic work, emphasizing Limes' large than life qualities, played perfectly by the larger than life himself, Orson Welles.  :)

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