Euphoria #12: “Don’t be so gloomy.”

A Walk Thing.

Regular reader Darryl McCarthy contributes to our ongoing quest to pinpoint those movie moments that sugar-coat your synapses and make your insides glow like Marlene Dietrich. Another spoiler alert for this one, though I like to hope there aren’t many of you who haven’t seen Carol Reed and Graham Greene’s THE THIRD MAN.

“Moments of cinematic euphoria? The long shot with Alida Valli walking down the avenue towards the viewer and past Joseph Cotten into a future of her own design – my heart still skips a beat every time I watch it.”

It’s a truly great shot, reversing the usual spatial terms of the standard “walks off into the sunset” ending by having (Alida) Valli walk TOWARDS and PAST us, rather than away, and leaving the hero stranded, stationary, abandoned by love to the solitary pleasure of the philosophical cigarette.

I noted before how the falling leaves were a last-minute improvisation (men up ladders with sacks of fallen greenery [or should that be orangery, given the autumnal climate?]). and it is also perhaps worth noting that the antique Eclair camera deployed to shoot the scene did not even allow the cinematographer to watch through the viewfinder as Valli proceeded from the vanishing point to the lens.

“If we run the end titles [over this] you’ll soon know who stayed to watch the end of the fucking picture, won’t you?” remarked Reed. (Facts & quotes from Charles Drazin’s In Search of The Third Man).

It’s a bittersweet sort of euphoria, but sometimes that’s just what you want. I visited Vienna with Fiona one winter and found the place much like that, and we went on the Big Wheel, Fiona lying on the floor in terror as I admired the view (but got nervous as the carriage creaked and the windows rattled).

Why did Reed make so few great films? Lindsay Anderson bemoans that the great Brit “fell in with Americans”, while David Lean observed that “Carol lost his courage.” The suggestion was that if he had made this film later in his life, Reed would have broken up this sublime master shot with cutaways.

Is there even more to be said about this film, which has already been the subject of entire books and documentaries? There certainly is…

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13 Responses to “Euphoria #12: “Don’t be so gloomy.””

  1. Being a fan of The Thrid Man, I gotta admit, that one would have been my choice for the euphoric moment as well.

    Was the whole film shot with the Eclair camera? Because it’s got some of the most beautiful shots I’ve ever seen in a film and it’s hard to believe they could have gotten stuff like that without a viewfinder.

  2. They had three camera crews in Vienna with different camera, and probably another camera for studio stuff in England. Carol Reed was zooming from unit to unit working 20 hour days and chewing benzedrine to stay awake. So the primitive camera was just for certain shots, probably those that didn’t require synch sound either (I bet it made a racket).
    Robert Krasker I think got an Oscar for his photography, which is fantastic — but at least 50% of the location stuff must have been the work of other units while he was catching some shuteye.
    David Lean, having fired Krasker from Great Expectations, saw The Third Man and thought, “Oh, maybe I was wrong about him.”

  3. Shane Clifford Says:

    I also love the more obvious euphoric moment from this film, the shot of Welles in the doorway, from the cat playing with the shoe laces, Welles’ cheeky smile and the giant shadow running through the streets of vienna. Great stuff.

  4. You can find variations of this walk in the ends of The Quiller Memorandum and The Long Goodbye

  5. The Quiller Memorandum is an underrated little film. Guy Hamilton, who made it (from Pinter’s script) was AD on The Third Man, and is the source of an incorrect story I want to clear up soon. Or at least, offer an alternative view on.

    There’s a nice editing trick when Welles first shows: a cutaway shows the light coming on in the upstairs window, then we cut to Welles, and he’s still dark for about three frames: then the light hits his face. Reed and his editor have SLOWED DOWN THE SPEED OF LIGHT.

  6. Let’s not forget the fingers through the grating shot :)

  7. That’s a glorious shot. I believe it’s Carol Reed’s fingers. (And it’s his voice narrating at the start).

    I also love the “tunnel of light” we see when the final shot rings out.

  8. Did you know that theres a Third Man MUSEUM in Vienna ? Becky Knapp related to me a trip there – it was specially opened for producers on the ACE course. In three cottages and slightly bonkers… but fascinatig all the same. The zizther is on display.

  9. Wow! I don’t think it existed when we were there. They had 3RD MAN sewer tours, and a cinema showing it all year round. (What could any Scottish cinema do to compete?)

    Happy New Year!

  10. I Know Where I’m Going tours of course!

  11. Ah, M actually knows the island of Mull well. I believe she’s been to the famous phone booth. If there were a cinema there, they could show the film, but I don’t think there is.

    You can go on a tour of locations for A Canterbury Tale once a year in Kent.

    For some reason we have TWO famous phone booths here, the other being the one from Local Hero which is a genuine tourist attraction.

  12. I have been to the phone booth (out of order I was going to try and call you from it!) the hotel of course The Western Isles, the jetty, the house with the Celidh – which I forget the name but its open to the public and Duart Castle horrible and damp… And I met the lady who was the leading ladies stand in.

    Could we have 39 steps tours across the forth rail bridge? I live in Trainspotting land its not much of a draw…. I’d love of coure enter Margaret Tait Land in Rose St 60 years ago – I’m not sure if the Edinburgh Tourist Board could provide travel passes between time zones…

  13. Travel passes between time zones is a LOVELY IDEA!

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