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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?

 

I don't now if Welles beats out Turner's entrance into a film this week, but it is awfully good. Reed sets it up so well. Joseph Cotton has been looking for his erstwhile friend Lime, and has discovered that Lime did something so heinous it is no wonder the British army is after him. Of course the audience knows that Lime must appear at some point (after all, Welles was too big a star to come in halfway through the film), however, it is a surprise that the figure, whose legs are being hugged by a meowing cat is Lime. After all, Cotton's exchange with the police wasn't exactly friendly, and it would make sense that they are following him in order to ferret out Lime.

 

When Cotton starts yelling at Welles, the camera pans to the upstairs window of the building in which doorway Welles is concealed. All of the angles are completely off kilter, the buildings, the windows, the street parameters, and the doorways, so when we hear the light click and Welles' face is illuminated head on framed in the center it is startling. Just as if we came into a room, turned on the light, and someone unexpected is lit, startling us.

 

What I noticed about Welles' performance is that his face is filled with all of the insouciance that Lorre's performance lacked in Dimitrios (the Daily Dose a couple of days ago). Welles is so good he doesn't need dialogue or lots of screen time to establish Lime's character. No wonder Reed fought to get him in the film.

 

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).

 

Well, our instructor has answered this question for us.

 

The realism is in depicting a wet, European, cobblestone street in post-war Vienna, which is abandoned, presumably because the British have a curfew for the conquered Germans. The scene is completely believable as such. Every shot, except for Lime's entrance, seems to be unbalanced, at a weird angle, and night for night (I read the articles this week!).

 

The Karas score is just right to highlight the jarring, sometimes screeching, completely European nature of the destroyed city of Vienna. A zither is able to sound tuneless or tuneful depending on what is required at each particular shot. When Welles appears the tune is jaunty and sweetly mocking, just like Lime's smirk at Cotton. When Trevor Howard realizes the kiosk is covering a path to the sewer by which Lime has escaped, the music is an alarm going off in his brain.

 

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

 

The fact that virtually every shot is off angle and edited to move sharply through the sequence, as well as lit to emphasize the chaotic nature of night time Vienna after the war, shows a synergy of direction, cinematography, lighting, editing and musical composition, which work completely in synch with each other. The scene is a masterful piece of filmmaking by a director who could helm any film project such as little comedies (Kidd for Two Farthings), postwar thrillers (Man Between), musicals (Oliver), plays to film (Fallen Idol), comedy/drama (Kipps), etc.

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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.

 

All the supporting parts and extras were played by locals, with some prominent theater actors for the speaking parts. Their accents are genuine Viennese which is a thick and distinctive flavor of German similar to Swiss and Bavarian and not always easy to understand. Lack of subtitles fit the movie because it puts you all the more in Holly's position, beset as he is by confustion and disorientation, and deceived by others.

 

If you understand it, on the other hand, it lends authenticity and a look into these people's souls. The elderly landlady, for instance, in the once-palatial building where Anna is housed. I think it's when Russians come looking for Anna or her papers. The landlady expresses such outrage and righteous indignations over the soldiers who trample in and out, shaming and defiling the building by their presence. She sounds like the last remaining guardian of Austria's ruined glory and the lost dignity of its people. The citizens are so depressed and beaten down from the war.

 

Then there's the little boy with the ball who takes such wicked delight in fingering Joseph Cotten in the crowd - "It was him! He was it!" Another unforgettable scene!

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


This to me in one of the best introductions to a character i've seen.  The music, the shadow, the light turning on framing his face perfectly then when it goes out he's gone.


 


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 set is very realistic to me, looks like a real street in vienna.  Formalistic I would say that it has major stars!  Joseph Cotten and Orson Welles big budget look.  The shadows play a large part in the scene with the music and the loud running away sound.  For when Joseph Cotten is looking around and hearing the sound of running feet the camera seems to spin and make us going around in a circle.


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


 Amazing use of light and dark, Shadows, music and mystery. Perfection!


 


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When I first saw this film, I didn't know if the movie was unfolding inside of someone's nightmare or was for real in a country just getting over a war. I felt like the streets were more than empty... like there must have been people in the dark shadows, watching those few who went out after curfew.  Now I realize that the noir forces of formalism and realism were at work building confusion and tension in this scene. Like Joseph Cotten, I started to question my own sanity. Did I see Harry or not?

 

The lighting, dizzying camera angles in every direction and the zither add to an sinister feeling. We're high up and looking down. We're made small in the large, empty square with one "Colonne Morris" (don't know German word for it) standing just off center and blocking our view of the whole square. The lighting really takes hold of us with dark, dark shadows and building facades that seem to be intentionally lit from somewhere off-stage.

 

Orson Welles' entrance into the film is disturbing. We see someone's feet and that cat. And in what seems to be a blink, Harry Lime appears, face illuminated and sporting a mischievous, impish grin. And just at that moment when we can grasp Harry, a vehicle comes out of nowhere and puff...he's gone. Was Harry really there or were we imagining it along with Joseph Cotten? And where did that vehicle come from? We didn't hear it...on such quiet streets...until the very last minute.  Quelle surprise!

 

 

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The sinister introduction of Harry Lime on the darkened streets of divided Europe in the context of film noir on the cobblestone, in the shadow, in the doorway, in the dampness, light reflecting off the watery streets where war the starkest reality of mankind's evil set at the beginning of a tenuous peace and start of cold war. In Harry's smirk we see his (and our own  potential for) contempt for humanity disappearing down the sewer, lurking and cleaning itself of stench like the cat licking its paws, called out by the search for truth (hey, sledgefoot!) Cotton trying to reconcile his past with his present, his friendship with Harry, now dark now light. Nothing is simple, the illusions of nothing all good/all bad, innocence vanished, Harry's boyish face and foreboding countenance. Zither music strange to Western ears, all treble, no bass, all melody repeated haunting, no harmony no chords no lush and beautiful strings or woodwinds or brass just that strangely metallic brittle on the edge about to snap can't get it out of my head tune. 

Seen the film, know Welles would water down the penicillin and kill even the survivors of war for his own greed, looking down from the dizzying heights so individuals looked like nothing more than ants to be crushed underfoot. 

Finally chased down the sewer. Goodbye, Harry. They changed the ending, didn't they? To make it more palatable or something.....

Will watch it every chance I get.

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Orson Welles without saying a word steals the scene, that was classic, and I noticed that the one of the posters on the center tower in the square mentioned Jackal, simply wonderful it reminded me of the movie day of the Jackal. That was a great scene.

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The Third Man is one of my favorite films, and this scene is a prime example of why.  The film itself, like this scene, is an interesting mix of realism and formalism.  It begins like the viewer is about to watch a documentary, before transitioning into the narrative of the film itself.  Much of the film is shot on location, capturing the look and feel of post-World War II Vienna, yet Reed chose to film in a very formalistic way, with much of the story being told through directorial choices such as camera angles and lighting.  Reed even had to have the streets sprayed with water to capture the striking reflection of the streetlights on the street below.

 

This specific scene has one of the most memorable entrances in film history.  The whole film has served to build a great deal of curiosity in the viewer as to who Harry Lime really is.  The meowing cat draws Holly’s attention (and, thus, the viewer’s) to the darkened doorway.  The cut to the door is a bit jarring, since there is no establishing shot to tell us where this doorway is.  Additionally, the camera is at a bit of an angle, so the shot feel off-kilter.  It’s a long shot, so we can just see something in the frame next to the cat.  It is hard to tell exactly what we are seeing at first glance, but it appears to be a pair of feet.  With the cut back to Holly, we can situate ourselves a bit more in the scene as he turns around to look at the doorway.  There is a shot from even farther away that is level, but the next time we go back to the doorway, we are at an angle again.  The next time we go to the doorway, we are much closer and focused on the cat, with a man’s legs clearly visible behind it, but the frame is still slightly askew. 

 

We cut to the darkened window, waiting to see what will happen next until the light goes on and the light from above perfectly illuminates the man’s face.  The rest of the frame remains dark, but the face of Orson Welles is brightly illuminated directly in the center of the frame.  After a bit of cutting between the three people (Harry, Holly, and the woman at the window), we zoom in closer until Harry’s face dominates the screen and then, much to our surprise, he smiles.  Our shots of Holly are still askew, suggesting his disorientation at discovering that his friend is still alive.  The light disappears as the woman leaves her window, throwing the doorway into complete darkness. 

 

Somehow, almost as if by magic, Harry manages to leave the doorway and runs down the street.  The only trace of him is the sound of his footsteps, which were hidden by the noise of the passing car.  The scene is shot at quite sharp and crooked angles throughout the chase scene, keeping the viewer as off-balance as Holly’s emotions.  The only other glimpse we catch of Harry before he disappears again is his shadow.  Interestingly, Holly does not cast the same large shadow when he follows Harry’s path, a subtle clue to the viewer that Harry has a dark side that Holly doesn’t. 

 

When we realize that Harry has disappeared, the kiosk dominates the frame.  It is in the center of the frame, and the light that surrounds it draws the viewer’s eye.  Therefore, we are not surprised to learn in the next part of the scene that it enabled Harry to make his escape.  Even though we did not see much of Harry in his first appearance, the viewer is left curious and wanting to see more of this charismatic man.

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Orson Welles standing in the dark only to be seen when a single light is turned on.  And then off again.  Then he disappears completely.  It would drive me insane if I had a friend as fiendish as Lime.  And what a name!  Orson was right to showcase himself with a spotlight and grin. 

It isn't that the shots are angled; they didn't need to be since the streets and buildings are.  The use of lighting is especially effective because of the contrast of the wall being so well lit but the street above is not.  Even the cat is black and white.  Shadows are devious.  The sound of his feet stamping seemed odd as if he was moving in two directions.

I love the happy music in the midst of the despair and loneliness that pervades this film.  Everything about the film seems formalistic in the realistic settings. 

Lime is an odd character with an odd running shadow who naturally vanishes down a spiral staircase underneath the city.

 

This film uses all of the techniques we have been learning.  The light and shadow, strange zither music, canted angle shots, close-ups, characters hiding in the shadow, and mystery.

 

 

 

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What makes Harry Lime's (Orson Well's) "entrance" so effective?    It is a great entrance and exit!

 

Like a cat with 9 lives, Harry too appears to have 9 lives!    After his formalistic - realistic burial, Harry's second life is signaled with that zither music.   "Come out, come out wherever you are!" adds a playful sense of mystery to match the mood of the music.  

 

Harry is framed in the doorway in complete blackness, except for three formalistic lighting shots:  shoes, face, and ear.   Shoes (black & white) are lit in shadowy fashion making it hard to make them out.  Harry's face is key-lit in an angular fashion - dancing in a sea of subtle sinister black.   The left side of his face is cast in a vertical black shadow.  This demarcates and higlights his ear - again dancing in a sea of black.   The shoes are a foreshadow to Harry's  "running shadow" - with clomping wet footsteps - that vanishes into the black and white Vienna night.   His face and ear (coupled with smirk) lead me to think Harry is playing a game of "See No Evil, Speak No Evil, Hear No Evil!"

 

As Joseph Cotton follows Harry's shadow to the fountain, the zither music plays in a much softer tone in the background - as if Harry's presence also lingers in the background of the street.  The music stops as Harry and the other men look, listen, ..... then the zither alarm sounds!  They run to Harry's exit:

a camouflaged doorway, that leads down a wet spiral staircase that fades down into the sewers.  This shot looks like a very scary, bottomless pit!  Follow Harry as he takes a slow, wet descent into Noir. 

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the third man is my favorite film of all

i have always been struck by the fact that the film's most charming and appealing character (by far) is also the least moral (by far)

graham greene knew a thing or two about moral ambiguity, but we should not underestimate the contribution of orson welles (greene himself credited orson with writing that incomparable cuckoo clock monologue)

part of the effectiveness of his reveal in the film is the fact that basically the entire film up to that scene had been anticipating it (it is impossible to think of the third man without harry lime)

hoping my (at times) culturally backwards home town will host a theatrical version of 2015's revamped print

:)

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This really is a perfect scene in so many ways!

 

I remember seeing The Third Man a few years ago and wondering throughout exactly WHEN Orson Welles was going to appear on screen.  As I recall, it's about 1/2 way or 2/3 into the movie and you have to wait patiently through all the other intrigue and excitement of the British noir.

 

As much as we must praise Welles for his excellent work in making this an effective entrance, the really outstanding piece to his appearance comes from director Carol Reed.  Specifically, Reed's choice to have the houselights shine on Welles as the window opens is absolutely brilliant.  When coupling that with Welles' wan smile and mysterious attitude, it becomes a perfect moment of surprise, excitement, and intrigue all wrapped in one.

 

In many ways, Reed's choices stem as far back as Joseph Cotten's walk down the street.  Each step he makes and all the action of the scene contributes to the light shining on Welles and his entrance to screen.  It all operates perfectly to make for a fitting twist to the mystery of Harry Lime.

 

And the mystery continues as Lime, when the light fades, rushes off to make his next move...

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“It wasn’t the German gin.”

 

I think it’s important to mention that Carol Reed’s The Third Man (1949) was the third film in what is one of the greatest three films directed in three years effort in the history of film.  Following Odd Man Out (1947) and The Fallen Idol (1948), The Third Man displays the enormous talent that Reed, with his cast (Orson Welles, Alida Valli, Joseph Cotton Trevor Howard), cinematographer Robert Krasker, writer(s) Grahame Greene and Alexander Korda and last but not least, composer Anton Karas, summoned to this project.

 

In the Criterion edition of the film, Peter Bogdanovich calls the film a, “happy accident” and then somewhat backtracks by calling Casablanca a happy accident also.  I think what’s he saying is that one can assemble all the talent in the world and a film can turn out like crap.  Conversely, assemble the exact same group and the next film can have all the magic, all the chemistry and the film turns out beautifully.  To the dismay of producers and studio heads there’s simply no way to create an assembly line process to insure each and every film is a blockbuster.  Whether it’s happy accident or fully realized artistic design, The Third Man is a brilliant effort, a testament to the British studio system, and certainly one of the best non-American examples of film noir.

 

In today’s clip, we’re introduced to Harry Lime, whose existence and actions drive the content of the film.  What makes Lime’s entrance so effective is the fact that, thus far, we haven’t seen him in the film.  Bogdanovich cites Orson Welles as calling the part the greatest “star part” ever written.  A star part being a part, “where the other characters talk about you for an hour and then you appear.”  In fact, today’s clip begins a little over an hour into the film.

 

There are several Dutch angles on the singles of Martins and Lime, however, the master shots are set up with a level composition.  DP Krasker’s lighting not only turns post war nighttime Vienna into a fantastically beautiful and eerie set, but he uses lighting for enormous dramatic effect.  When the annoyed upstairs woman turns on her light, it hits Lime’s face in close up, perfectly illuminating him.  Additionally, and in concert with the skewed angles and impossible but highly dramatic lighting, Karas’s musical sequences are punchy and underscore the big dramatic beats of the scene.  This stylistic back and forth between realism and formalism is handled seamlessly by Reed.

 

Reviewing Paul Schrader’s 1972 checklist, this clip from The Third Man contains scenes shot at night, diagonal lines and skewed compositions, actors and settings being given equal lighting emphasis, compositional tension preferred to physical action as well as complex narratives.

 

-Mark

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A perfectly balanced combination of zither music, key lighting, camera angle shot, well written scene, and Orson Welles' own cynical persona makes Harry Lime's "entrance" in Carol Reed's The Third Man so effective.  Of the "entrances" seen this week, Harry Lime (Orson Welles) and Cora (Lana Turner) are the most memorable with Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet a close runner up.  It comes down to the actor(s)'/actress' portrayal and persona. - Lana Turner does sultry, cold and sizzling well, while Orson Welles is flippant and cynical with charm.

 

The on-location shooting from Vienna, Austria, gives the postwar realism of a war-torn city.  When Holly (Joseph Cotton) sees and identifies Harry Lime (Orson Welles) in the door way, it becomes incredibly formalistic.  Holly starts to cross the street to Harry, but, a passing car (long diagonal shot as the car passes) stops Holly for a second or two.  In this heart felt second, Holly gets to the doorway but, Harry is gone!  Did Holly in his drunken state dream it all (the camera angles are all diagonals here - suggesting Holly's drunken state)?  Then, he hears running foot steps (Holly twirls around trying to figure out where the sounds are coming from - camera angles still on a diagonal).  Then, he sees a giant shadow (playing off the buildings in a long diagonal shot) of someone running away and is in hot pursuit.  Harry seems so close, but, as Holly runs after the shadow into a large courtyard, there are no more sounds of running footsteps.  Harry is gone!  It is very interesting to note that without the use of zither music during this formalistic part, the regular sounds such as Holly speaking or shouting, and running footsteps and the silences heighten the discovery and chase incredibly.  As the zither music comes back when Holly is at the cupid fountain (and realizes that he's lost Harry), its used as a 'tease' or 'nose tweaking' element which adds to Holly's discouragement.

 

Not only does this scene reinforce the use of photo realism & the formalistic approach, camera angles with diagonals, and low key lighting, but, it uses all these noir elements with great panache and artistry.  Such that the scene is an unforgettable contribution to the Film Noir genre.

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When I first watched The Third Man some years ago, the thing that immediately struck me was Robert Krasker's Oscar-winning cinematography, which is arguably some of the best black-and-white photography I've seen in any film. As we know, the chiaroscuro treatment is one element that's customary of film noir, and it comes to life in The Third Man in such a dynamic way, serving the film in both form (it's beautiful to look at) and function (it creates a mysterious and brooding atmosphere).

 

In this film, the high-contrast, low-key lighting both giveth and taketh away: just as quickly as it exposes Harry Lime, it blends him into the night. This lighting method--as well as the diagonal-angle shots and the seemingly uncustomary zither music--helps to establish a formalistic approach to this film, creating an unbalanced feeling in the viewer that parallels Holly Martins's mindset.

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This really is a perfect scene in so many ways!

 

I remember seeing The Third Man a few years ago and wondering throughout exactly WHEN Orson Welles was going to appear on screen.  As I recall, it's about 1/2 way or 2/3 into the movie and you have to wait patiently through all the other intrigue and excitement of the British noir.

 

As much as we must praise Welles for his excellent work in making this an effective entrance, the really outstanding piece to his appearance comes from director Carol Reed.  Specifically, Reed's choice to have the houselights shine on Welles as the window opens is absolutely brilliant.  When coupling that with Welles' wan smile and mysterious attitude, it becomes a perfect moment of surprise, excitement, and intrigue all wrapped in one.

 

In many ways, Reed's choices stem as far back as Joseph Cotten's walk down the street.  Each step he makes and all the action of the scene contributes to the light shining on Welles and his entrance to screen.  It all operates perfectly to make for a fitting twist to the mystery of Harry Lime.

 

And the mystery continues as Lime, when the light fades, rushes off to make his next move...

I completely agree with you in how Reed chose to introduce Harry Lime to the audience. Having him lurk in the shadows with a cat and then have a spotlight shine on him, quite literally, is genius. The cat is also a nice touch as well; I can't help but think of that comedic stereotype of "villains" in certain films in that they have cats. But Lime's entrance actually reminds me a bit of Gene Tierney's entrance in Laura in that both characters are supposed to be dead but are, in fact, very much alive. 

 

This really is a fantastic scene in a fantastic movie. I'm a huge Joseph Cotten fan and think this film is his finest performance, other than in Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt

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I've been particularly interested in the use of camera motion in several of the Daily Doses we've seen. Laura and The Letter begin with wonderful slow tracking shots, The Mask of Dimitrios has that fabulous lo-angle dolly move into Sidney Greenstreet's close-up... and here in The Third Man there's the move where Joseph Cotton walks from long shot to medium shot and there's a subtle pull-back as he arrives at the 'Cupid Fountain' - an almost unnoticeable dolly move that ends with a perfect framing of the Cupid on the right. A Cupid that seems to stare at Holy Martin as if to say 'poor sap.'

 

I know it's a small point - but films of this caliber all seem to have every detail exactly right - and it makes viewing them over and over again so worthwhile.

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The clip of The Third Man contains integrated realistic and formalist elements. The night-time Vienna location filming captures a real place for the audience - where people live. As Cotten taunts and seeks out the man who's following him, Krasker uses formalist techniques to depict a sense of mystery and imbalance with tilted camera angles and zither strumming. The plaza is level and empty but diagonals and angles of the streets and surrounding buildings dominate the sequence of shots comprising the scene.


Orson Welles' entrance is shrouded in the dark shadows of a doorway with key-light illuminating only his ankles and feet (formalist), while a cat **** and sniffs around at his feet (realistic). The shadowed man's face is shown when a woman turns on a light and opens a window above the doorway - Welles' face is starkly focused and lighted, contrasting with the black background, and accompanied by lively zither music which fits with [his] side-view smirk. Then, the camera pans in to a close-up shot for a few seconds until the woman turns off the light - suddenly his face is in darkness again and he's gone. But we know that Cotten knows this man and a series of shots & cuts follow Cotten as he chases footsteps and running shadows.


The scene's action transitions when the station in the empty plaza becomes the focus and, with the opening of the door, a stairway - down - is discovered. The zither music is quick and generates a sense of excitement and mystery. Is this where the man went? Where does this dark stairway lead? And, to what?


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This sequence masterfully sustains the power of the camera to capture reality and a surreality. The introductory shot of Cotton walking along cobblestone streets and petite, forked alley ways capture an authentic Vienna. The woman in the apartment stretching her head out of the window conveys an everyday reality as she angrily bares her grievances and irritation with Cotten's belligerent yelling. This is quotidian living. The zither music also functions as a character in itself throughout the film. The music provides fidelity to the Viennese locale. The non-diegetic score fully immerses us into the city of Vienna, Austria. We see the sights and hear the sounds, thus giving us the notion of realism. The formalism comes through with the canted camera angle facing a darkened facade with merely a spotlight upon Lime's (Welles) glossy black shoes along with an unsuspecting feline companion. The tilted camera and stark shadows embody the formalist tendency which also carries on in the next few scenes as Cotton runs after Lime. 

 

Harry Lime's entrance is perfection. He need not say a word, just a look and smirk will do. We see and sense his slyness and ego. His silence and cunning look effectively capture Lime's persona. Whereas in all the other clips we've seen this week, our noir protagonists are saturated with words and ideas, here Lime's essence is summed up in his artful look and shadowy presence. What an iconic entrance!

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This scene veered from realism to formalism with Joseph Cotten walking around and the sudden appearance end disappearance of Orson Welles. Titled, angular shots and then Welles disappears as if by magic, like he was never there. There is an otherworldly feel to this scene; the zither music adds to the mystique. The dark jerkiness makes it a noir but it seems like something else is going on.

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Orson Welles' entrance in this scene is effective because we only see him when the lady opens her window and the light shines right on him, highlighting just his face and we can tell Joseph Cotten is very surprised to see him. The tilted camera angle throughout the scene is very film noir. I like when Joseph Cotten lost Orson Welles in the scene and is at the fountain; the cupid statue seems to be looking at him and thinking, 'come on, don't you know he went into the booth right behind you?'

I seem to remember a Remington Steele (tv show from the 80s with Pierce Brosnan) episode where the bad guy used a booth just like the one in this scene, they may have even referenced this movie because Remington Steele was a big movie buff.

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The Third Man is a surreal take on noir and it comes down to choices by Carol Reed, the film's director. We have canted angle shots, reminding me of something you'd see in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. There is carnival music playing in the background. The music juxtaposes the realism of Vienna during this time. The streets are empty, probably because there is a sense of fear by citizens and there is probably a curfew of some type. Joseph Cotton's character, who appears to be drunk, stumbles down these empty streets until he spots his once presumed dead friend, played by Orson Welles. Pure darkness immediately becomes a spotlight on Welles's face. Welles then flees and Cotton gives chase. You can see Welles' shadow on the wall as Cotton is chasing him. Welles's shadow is very bizarre because it looks as if he is running and running, not gaining any ground. It's like he is running on a treadmill. The unconventional choices by Carol Reed only heightens the suspense of the film and the twisty nature of it.

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1.)   What makes Harry Limes' appearance so effective in The Third Man is that for quite some screen time we don't see anyone at all.  Joseph Cotten's character runs wildly around a post-war Vienna street and cobblestone covered courtyard calling out to a man standing in shadow in a doorway.  A woman hears his shouts, turns on her light, and the light illuminates Lime's face momentarily.  What makes Limes entrance effective is that his introduction into the story is transient...we see him bathed in light briefly then he vanishes again.

 

2.)   This scene combines realism and formalism in that the scenes of Cotton wandering through war-torn Vienna are ahead of their time for a 1949 studio picture. These scenes are obviously shot on location in the same streets that witnessed combat with Nazi Germany and the scars are visible throughout -- one can see shattered windows, damaged cobblestones, darkened streets.  No movie at that time (save possibly for a newsreel)  showed this level of realism in a film.  On location shooting on a war torn street using night-for-night photography. 

 

 

        Reed seems to play with the relationship between realism and formalism in that no sooner does he anchor us in this ultra realistic world than he turns the who world on it s side via titled camera angles.  The titled angles give the scenes an other worldly look  -- a world out of control and without balance. The odd accompanying music sounds like it belongs as music for a silent film era comedy.  The combination of the odd music score and realistic scene elements give the scene s a curious feeling. The scene appears serious, but borders on the humoruous.

 

 

3.)   This scene can be considered an important contribution to the film noir style is that because the film was made 1949 Reed took advantage of the stylistic elements present in hundreds of film noir films made between 1941 and 1946.  Reed acknowledges noir style and launches that style to the next evolutional stage.  Low-key light mixed with high-key light which then returns to low-key light.  Tilted camera angles couples with sharp angular mis-en-scene.  Realistic, documentary like location filming at night.  Zany music that goes against the scene's story elements than in unison with them. Desperate characters wandering deep black and gray rain soaked streets.  Reed has it all in this scene proving that British film noir could rival the noir of the big Hollywood studios.

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This scene from "The Third Man" takes many of the traditional elements of film noir - shadows, odd angles, low-key lights and sounds - and turns them into what was so perfectly called a "dazzling display of formalist techniques." It truly is that.

 

Director Carol Reed uses noir elements to extremes and then even plays them off each other for added effect. The city streets have severe angles of walkways and buildings, but that's not enough - the camera is tilted. Dark doorways are skewed at extreme angles, as are the people. At one point Joseph Cotten's character, the unfortunately named Holly Martins, is filmed at an angle leaning to the right and the next shot is of the dark doorway hiding Orson Welles (playing Harry Lime) angled toward him to the left. It is like the two characters are destined to collide.

 

The "reveal" of Harry in the doorway is brilliant. When we first glimpse the dark, angled doorway all we can see is a kitten. It takes a second shot to see the shoes and pants of a man who is shrouded in inky darkness above the kitten. The camera cuts between a puzzled Holly, wondering who is following him, to the man in the doorway. A woman turns out a light and it shines directly on the man's face. He is dressed in black (hat, scarf, coat) to further add to the darkness around him, allowing the light to focus on that amazing face of Orson Welles. The camera moves in and captures the small smirk on his face before the light turns off and he is gone. That's a grand entrance.

 

Reed's filmmaking and Welles' screen magnetism are a powerful combination. The play of shadows and angles along with Welles standing nearly perfectly still speak 1,000 words despite Welles not saying a word. It is fascinating to watch.

 

The film uses all of those formalist techniques above but is still deeply realistic because it is filmed on location, uses real sounds like the car horn, cat and the female neighbor yelling at the noise for a bit of comic relief. We are on a very realistic dark, wet street in Vienna that starts to turn almost nightmarish with the overbearing shadows and angles - a perfect mix of realism and formalism.

 

@toniruberto

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     If you know the film this Harry Lime entrance is effective; if you do not, it means nothing at all. In the first half of the film Holly has come to Vienna to find his friend Harry. He is told Harry has just died and he goes to the funeral. He then asks around as to how Harry really died. He meets a lot of people who regard him with suspicion. (Very noir!) One night on a dark street he is aware that someone is following him or watching him. When a light flashes on the scene, he is shocked to discover that it is Harry. He rushes to him, a truck cuts him off, and Harry runs away. We too are shocked to discover that it was Harry who was following Holly, thinking like Holly that it is one of the many others, and especially because in the opening credits it states that Orson Wells is one of the stars; however, this entrance occurs after the half way mark in the film …we had forgotten all about Orson.


            The scene is not realistic because it shows war torn Vienna. Quite the contrary; the street here looks to be rather upscale and in good repair. It has a certain character because the whole of the street is in darkness, on the gray scale nearly black, and all of the buildings have an architectural sameness. It is not a street in a grid pattern but a city square with any number of side streets going off into the darkenss.It is a film location in the actual streets of the story but its formal values are some very theatrical lighting featuring bright spots of light from instruments known as “brutes”, lights of ten thousand watts. One glaring (pun intended) error is the light that falls on Harry’s face. Behind Holly, nearly a block away, we see a woman come to her window to shush the loud voices and when she turns on her lamp, probably 60 or 75 watts, it floods Harry’s face half a block away, also exposing the film makers’ preference for mega wattage lamps.


            Another formalist value is the tilted camera, often called a Dutch frame, I believe, from German Expressionism. In fact a constant complaint about this film since its first release is that the tilted camera is greatly over used here. But it does explain one of the major problems with British films: they are too dependent on the London stage; they have always tended to be too stagey, too …formalistic.


            The music, the use of only a zither, was a welcome change from the standard British film London Philharmonic full Orchestra. But at times it is completely trite and second rate …and that pretty much describes its use in this scene …overwrought.


            I am uncertain that this film makes, or made, any contribution to film noir, but with all the above cited, it does contain all of what became the clichés of the genre/style/movement.


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This scene is the most unsettling I've seen in the Daily Dose. The tilted camera angles, and in some cases low camera angels, are very uncomfortable. His world is topsy-turvy and so are we. I felt like I was going to fall right out of the frame. He felt exposed and vulnerable, and so did i!

 

And that smile! No good will come of that, I'm sure. It was like a Cheshire Cat grin. One second it was there, the next it disappeared. Genius lighting.

 

I would not have been able to identify what was making me feel uncomfortable were it not for this class. I'm so appreciative. I'm getting out of this class exactly what I'd hoped.

 

I already had this movie set to record on Friday. I look forward to seeing the whole thing.

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