Friday, January 24, 2014

The Third Man (1949)

WHO: Graham Greene wrote the screenplay for this film.

WHAT: As Imogen Sara Smith recently wrote,
The Third Man possesses intoxicating style and at the same time dissects the ease with which style can trump substance in the movies—the way, in film noir especially, glamour and aesthetic bliss can set one’s moral compass spinning. In the film’s tilting, labyrinthine world, beauty and corruption, cruelty and charm blend as smoothly as coffee and cream. It’s a world of splendor and rubble, leprous baroque apartments in half-gutted buildings, bleak fairgrounds and tired gypsy cafes. Anton Karas’s famous zither score, jaunty and wistful, imbues a mood of wry detachment and haunting nostalgia.
WHERE/WHEN: Screen tonight only at 9:00 at the Castro Theatre.

WHY: Of all the films screening at this year's Noir City film festival running tonight through Sunday, February 2nd at its traditional Castro Theatre home, The Third Man is the most widely-known and critically-regarded. At least in the English-speaking world it is, that is. For the first time in the festival's history, it's showing a majority of foreign-language noirs among its program, fulfilling the wishes of cinephiles who have long hoped that films from France, Mexico, Japan, etc. might find a place under the festival's spectacular tent. I doubt I'm alone in hoping that this year's Noir City edition is at least as successful as ever with audiences, in the hopes that future editions might find more room for more noir from more countries. (Italy? Egypt? Finland? Thailand? I know they're out there.)

I've written about this year's festival and the international history of noir in an article published at Keyframe yesterday (other articles on the festival so far include Smith's, Sura Wood's, preview, and G. Allen Johnson's interview with festival director Eddie Muller), but my efforts to drum up interest in this year's festival won't stop there. Though I've sen The Third Man countless times (including a 35mm Castro screening less than two years ago) I plan to go again tonight. I imagine there will be folks attending who are excited to see the Third Man but may be on the fence about attending the rest of the festival because they're unsure about their interest in foreign-language films they may not have heard of before. I'm hoping my enthusiasm for favorites like Stray DogQuai des Orfèvres a.k.a. Jenny L'Amour, etc. might rub off on some of these fence-sitters and encourage them to take a chance on the rest of the program. The Third Man seems an ideal choice to open this international edition of Noir City, not only because it's a great movie that's never screened previously at Noir City, but also because Graham Greene is a perfect bridge to European noir for the Hollywood noir fan. Influential American films like This Gun For Hire and Ministry of Fear were based upon his novels, and are quite consistent with the British noirs he was responsible for once becoming a screenwriter: Brighton Rock (also screening at Noir City this week), The Fallen Idol, and The Third Man.

HOW: On a double-bill with Journey Into Fear, both screening from 35mm prints.

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