(Criterion/IndieFlix/VOD) Yes, another film with Orson Welles, albeit directed by Carol Reed (who had previously directed the stellar noir ODD MAN OUT). It’s not just one of my favorite noirs but one of my favorite films period. For example, I snuck in excerpts from the soundtrack it into my wedding playlist. (I’ll note it was the dining playlist, not the dance playlist.)
While I love everything about it — the zither-centric soundtrack, the clever use of post-wartime occupied space, the amazing chiaroscuro work and canted angles supplied by Reed’s go-to cinematographer Robert Krasker, Holly Martins’ (Joseph Cotton) writerly self-deprecation, and obviously Welles as Harry Lime and the marvelous scene construction of the cuckoo clock scene — I came to it far later in life than I should have. While other films have liberally borrowed from it — notably BRAZIL with its zither use and own Harry Lime — and while it’s widely considered one of the greatest British films ever made, I have the impression that it’s a film that is rarely watched by anyone apart from cinephiles and noir nerds like myself. It’s not a film you hear friends say ‘Oh, I saw that with my mom (or dad)! They absolutely loved that film. Let’s watch it again!’ Casual filmgoers don’t seem to speak of it with the reverence they would of, say, CHINATOWN.
Perhaps it’s because Cotton lacks the enigmatic charisma of Bogart, even though I can’t see Bogart as Holly Martins. Perhaps most people hate zither music. Perhaps I’m wrong, and youths organize weekly watch parties for it. Regardless, it is rich and substantial, and a film that folks should see far earlier in life. It captures a very specific time in a way that few movies do, and the fact that it has a complicated male relationship, an exceptional villain, and a thrillingly extraordinary chase scene, should be more than enough to merit anyone’s attention.
Or, perhaps I’m entirely wrong about all of the above and maybe it has aged terribly, now considered to be completely overrated. Watch and see for yourself. All I know is that I’ll never stop loving it.