#94 The Third Man

Watched: March 27 2017

Director: Carol Reed

Starring: Joseph Cotten, Orson Welles, Alida Valli, Trevor Howard

Year: 1949

Runtime: 1h 44min

The Third Man Poster


Holly Martins (Cotten) arrives in post-war Vienna to start a job provided for him by Harry Lime (Welles) only to find that his friend has died. As Martins starts looking into the accidental death, things don’t add up. Conflicting witness statements and suspicious characters convince the mystery writer that there is something strange going on and he starts to investigate with the help of Harry’s (somewhat illegal) girlfriend, Anna Schmidt (Valli).

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It’s a long and winding road to get at the truth. And it’s almost as if there’s symbolism in the sets and cinematography.


We cannot really say much more about the plot without spoiling the film. Suffice to say, Holly’s suspicions are not unfounded and his investigation takes him deep into the murky waters of war profiteering in post-war/early cold war era Vienna. There are twists and turns aplenty and it’s an exciting and engaging watch.

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It’s a wet dream for cobblestone aficionados everywhere!


What stands out the most in The Third Man is the incredible use of shadows which reminded us a bit of the early German expressionist films we watched, just turned up to 11 (as did a lot of the angles). The beautiful architecture of Vienna with the juxtaposition of the gorgeous buildings and the rubble of the collapsed structures was beautiful, although we’re sure Austrians may disagree with that.

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For horror fans, there’s also a creepy balloon guy.


Wet cobblestones, lots of arches, scary shadows, and a strangely beautiful sewer system make the film very visually appealing. There’s also a decorative lampshade – the very epitome of the Noir trope. The performances are great, with Welles being nicely menacing and slick.

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As we said, cobblestone aficionados need look no further for a fix.


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Neither do fans of Orson Welles’ strange charm


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Seriously though – very attractive sewer! We can see ourselves turning it into some sort of Gothic paradise.


What we learned: War is the mother of invention. Also, sister the oldest is a little shadow slut. She loves her some good shadows!

Next time: White Heat (1949)

#68 Brief Encounter

Watched: January 1 2017

Director: David Lean

Starring: Celia Johnson, Trevor Howard, Cyril Raymond

Year: 1945

Runtime: 1h 26min



Brief Encounter is David Lean’s film version of a Noël Coward play, and it is beautiful.

Laura Jesson (Johnson) and Dr Alec Harvey (Howard) are sitting in a station café when they are steamrolled by a whirlwind known as Dolly. She blabbers on, completely oblivious to the fact that she has clearly interrupted something very special and important.

“I can’t believe you let her hijack us like this!”


Dr Harvey leaves and Laura goes home to her husband (Raymond) and tries to process what has happened through internal dialogue and flashbacks, as a story told, but not told, to her husband.

She probably could have just told him the whole story for all the attention he pays


Alec and Laura met by chance in the station café some weeks prior to the opening scene. They then keep running into each other until they start to plan their meetings and eventually admit to falling in love with each other. They start a (unfulfilled) romance which changes at least her perception of her life and identity.

Shared ridicule of unfortunate musicians is always a turn-on


Their relationship is doomed from the start as they both have families (who they seem to love as well) and are too proper and middle class to divorce or even “properly” cheat on their partners. The story is told from her perspective, and parts of it reminds us of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House (though that may be because we’re Norwegian and prone to finding Ibsen-parallels in everything). She is stuck in a too small life and Alec is as much the catalyst for her “awakening” as anything else. When she imagines their life together, she does not see him as a replacement for her husband – their life will be one filled with travel and adventure, not the mundane and routine based life she’s currently leading.

There will be no sitting around while Dr Harvey reads the paper! No sirree!


Of course, therein lies the appeal of “brief encounters” – the routine of day to day life never has a chance to ruin the perfect romance. Laura and Alec’s dalliance does not go on far enough for us, or the characters, to know whether their relationship would be better in the long run than the ones they are too “proper” to escape. In fact, in the end it seems Laura’s husband understands her better than she thinks, and there may be some hope there after all. However, she is still stuck in the same routine, with only the memory of romance to keep her going.

Despite the inherent betrayal of their actions, it really is a rather sweet and innocent romance between two somewhat alienated people


We loved this film. The story is well told from Laura’s perspective, and the need for something “real” to happen in her life is very clear. It is also beautifully shot, especially everything involving trains, from the first shot of the speeding train scored by Rachmaninoff to the gorgeous shot of Laura reflected in the train window while dreaming of an alternate life. The last moments of her “vertigo” and suicidal impulse upon Alec leaving for the last time are both disturbing and wonderful.



What we learned: a romance doesn’t have to be epic and earth shattering to be life changing for those involved.

Next time: Dead of Night (1945)