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…