My favorite press release of the year hit my inbox this morning, as the 4K restoration of director Carol Reed’s classic The Third Man is hitting New York’s Film Forum for a two week run starting June 26 and L.A.’s Nuart on July 3. Showings in San Francisco, Seattle, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., and other cities will soon follow.
Penned by Graham Greene, The Third Man centers on Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten) a dime store novelist who visits charismatic old buddy Harry Lime (Orson Welles, delivering a sleight of hand performance that ranks among his finest work) in post-war Vienna. Upon learning of Lime’s seemingly accidental death, Martins correctly surmises that something’s amiss. A fateful meeting, coupled with a growing affection for Lime’s girlfriend Anna Schmidt (Alida Valli) leads Martins on a path of no return.
Whether it’s Anton Karas’ inspired, zither only music score or Lime’s iconic “cuckoo clock” speech, The Third Man’s place in cinematic history is undeniable (it’s the only film on the top 100 of the American Film Institute and the British Film Institute). Though Karas, Greene, Reed and the film’s leads gained much of the fame for The Third Man, cinematographer Robert Krasker should also receive his share of credit for his noir-drenched visuals (Krasker won an Best Cinematography Oscar for The Third Man).
I’ve always seen the narrative, which carries its share of themes, as a complex look at the fraying bonds of friendship. Does Lime look at Martins with affection or is his buddy just another player to move on his chess board? As for Martins, a know it all to the core, casting his affections towards Anna definitely breaks the “guy code,” leading to one of my all time favorite closing moments in cinema (which filmmaker Martin Scorsese paid subtle homage to in The Departed).
The 4K digital restoration was handled by Deluxe Restoration on behalf of Studiocanal, and makes its world premiere this month at the Cannes Film Festival.
If you haven’t seen The Third Man, please try and check it out at on the big screen. Previously a crown jewel in the Criterion Collection, The Third Man is now available on Blu-ray via Lionsgate.