Film 101: The Third Man


What better way to spend a Saturday evening than dyeing Easter eggs and watching Joseph Cotten and Orson Welles in The Third Man? Carol Reed’s Brit noir film gets better with each viewing–whether one is pulled in by the stunning cinematography and sharp editing, Graham Greene’s atmospheric story that tiptoes between the gritty aftermath of WWII and the blossoming Cold War, or the brilliant acting between Joseph Cotten and Orson Welles (seen together also in Citizen Kane and Journey Into Fear). I love what this film says about loyalty and love and treachery, and how those three elements can get all bound up in one another.

But tonight I was particularly struck by Alida Valli, the stunning Italian/Austrian actress who played Orson Welles’s love interest. She had a brief Hollywood career in the 1940s under the single name of “Valli,” but she worked steadily in European film and television from 1934 to 2002. Watching her performance in The Third Man, it’s easy to see why: not only was she physically stunning, but she was utterly sincere and committed to her role. She might have played a simpering, wounded and rejected heroine, but instead she projected just the right balance of fearfulness and naive bravery. Her decision to stand by her man on the basis of a relationship the viewer only gets to glimpse for the briefest of moments is utterly convincing–though the viewer knows it’s a fruitless decision from the moment she makes it. It is one of the details that gets this film classified as classic noir. Of course, the ending of the film is classic Hollywood. They never could leave well enough alone.

If you haven’t seen this tight, richly visual thriller since your Film 101 class, you might think about putting it in your Netflix queue. It never ages.

On Monday, I’m excited that my friend, debut thriller author Jordan Dane, will be here to share a bit of her thriller-writing wisdom. I’ll be away eating Easter candy, working on edits for CALLING MR LONELY HEARTS and polishing up my review of Ted Dekker’s new thriller ADAM.

Be well!

Leave a Reply