Nihilistic Noir

If the majority of post-WWII noir-flick soundtracks are saddled with the standard maudlin strings, then the all-zither score of the 1949 classic The Third Man is a great example of how music can radically affect the tenor of a film. Chipper and upbeat, it gives the proceedings a certain ironic buoyancy that ends up adding to their underlying nihilism: In The Third Man, neither good nor evil deeds amount to much more than a hill of beans.

The story follows Holly Martins (played wryly by Joseph Cotten), who has come to post-war Vienna to take a job with his old friend Harry Lime — except when he shows up at Lime’s apartment, he’s told the man was killed in a car accident out front just moments earlier. But Martins, over the course of making friends with an initially prickly British major and developing a crush on Lime’s old flame, begins to suspect Lime is not dead at all. Turns out he’s right: The racketeering Lime is very much alive, and — bonus! — he’s played by a charmingly villainous Orson Welles, who can hardly keep his eye from twinkling as he looks down from the top of a Ferris wheel and offers one of the film’s most memorable lines: “Tell me, would you really feel any pity if one of those dots stopped moving forever?”

The Third Man screens tonight at 7 p.m. and 9:45 p.m. at the Mayan Theatre, 110 North Broadway; tickets are $10 general admission. For more information, visit or call the Mayan at 303-744-6799.
Tue., March 15, 7 & 9:45 p.m., 2011

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Jef Otte
Contact: Jef Otte