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 www.landmarktheatres.com or call the Mayan at 303-744-6799.
Tue., March 15, 7 & 9:45 p.m., 2011

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Jef Otte
Contact: Jef Otte