Sunday, October 4, 2009

#57 The Third Man 1949

A man goes to visit a friend, who turns out to be dead. And, as he investigates the murder, he learns that his friend was much seedier than he had thought. This is the story of The Third Man, and what an intriguing story it is. The film is filled with twists that even a modern audience wouldn’t see coming. The Third Man is the kind of film that you don’t necessarily realize is great until you take a really good look.

For one thing, the cinematography is amazing. The use of shadows throughout this film puts every other noir director to shame. Light is used to its greatest potential, as there are few scenes were one character or another is not shrouded in darkness to mirror the deceit in the story. Also, the use of shadows and silhouettes in chase scenes and for suspense is brilliant. Further, the use of depth and architecture is wonderful, especially in the last scene, as Anna walks down the tree lined path past Holly.

The music in the film was also great. At the end, as the sting to catch Orson Welles is underway, there is a melodic, sultry, Tarantino-esque guitar playing in the background. It juxtaposes the action in the scene perfectly to add texture and make the scene much more interesting. Its one of the few pieces of music that stands out, which is appropriate in the climatic scene.

All this said and appreciated, the best parts of the film were the screenplay, and the performance by Orson Welles. The plot of the story was great, but the dialogue made it even better. Filled with quirky one-liners, the film had a touch of humor in the midst of intense suspense. My personal favorite was the English detective, saying to the self-appointed detective, “You were born to be murdered.” Also interesting was the analogy made by Orson Welles, as he talked about the general population as the dots seen from the sky. “Tell me,” he says, “would you really feel any pity if one of those dots stopped moving forever?” The worth of one random persons life and whether each live is equal to another: a universal issue presented in an original way. The screenplay is simply is Mr. Welles.

Orson Welles is on screen for maybe twenty-five minutes. However, in one scene, he makes more of an impact than any other actor in the entire film. Welles is so intense and believable in his character that it’s amazing. Until Welles appears on screen, he is only spoken about, so when we finally meet him, the intensity of the character makes a real impression. From there, you actually have a person to hate or root for, where before there was merely an idea.

I cannot say that The Third Man was one of my favorite films, but it is certainly wonderful and beautifully made. I highly recommend it.

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#48 Rules of the Game 1939

With Rules of the Game, we’re not only introduced to a new story and new characters, but an entirely different world. In this world, sex is the favorite and most popular pastime, and a man’s wife and mistress can be best friends, even if they both know one another’s roles. In the film, were introduced to two love triangles. One exists in the upper class, consisting of a marquis Robert, his wife, Christine, and his mistress Genevieve. It also becomes apparent that that national hero Andre is head over heals for Christine and would like to make to claim her for himself. The second triangle is created among the Robert and Christine’s staff, between Christine’s maid, Lisette, her husband (the groundskeeper) Schumacher, and Lisette’s would-be lover, Marceau (although Lisette has a wide range of lovers at her disposal). The two triangles progress side-by-side, one being about love and commitment, the other based upon sex.

From the very beginning, we know that infidelity is going to be a major theme in this film. Almost everyone is either cheating on his or her significant other, but no one seems to be perturbed by that. It seems to simply be the way of the French. People confess to being unfaithful, others watch people lock themselves in rooms with people other than their spouses. They look on and laugh.

Interestingly enough, there are two non-French characters, who are the most out of the loop. Christine is not French and is the only person oblivious to her husband’s affair. Schumacher is also not French, or at least not completely French. The marquis even teases him, saying his name in “shoe maker.” These are more-or-less the only characters who seem to have a problem with chronic infidelity, although Christine eventually gets over it.

The role of the servants was also interesting. Obviously, some servants (Lisette, Schumacher, and Marceau) played a important role in the film. However, others, who were more cursory characters, accented the movie in an entertaining way. They acted as the level headed parents, rolling their eyes and cleaning up after the band of spoiled children they work for. In many ways, they mirrored the modern American spectators, as we scoff at the rich’s absurd requests and watch wide-eyed as their tangled webs unravel. As a consequence of the vast divide between us and the main characters (due to socio-economics and moral fiber), the spectators find it particularly easy and comforting to connect with the help.

In conclusion, I thought that the story was interesting, but the plot twists were uncalled-for and lessened the characters, who were fairly flat to begin with. As a whole, Rules of the Game was a good movie, but not one of the best, in my opinion.

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