Monday, March 30, 2009

Pitfall (Otoshiana) A Film by Hiroshi Teshigahara (1962)

Pitfall hurriedly opens as if it was spliced out of the middle of a Japanese thriller, however the scene is silent with the exception of the invariable sound of a vigorous saw thrusting through a log. Hiroshi Teshigahara presents a father and son on the run - dodging around shadowy corners and through dimly lit streets - without the stylistic checkpoints such a scene may usually contain. Rather, his unsettling sound design and stark images create an otherworldly mood which sustains itself for more or less the rest of the film, the first entry in his existential trilogy based off Kôbô Abe novels. Oddly, the film has theatrical origins, but Teshigahara - with his inimitable jack-of-all-trades touch - transforms it into something that only seems fit for the screen, a cinematic amalgam of capitalist critique, alienation study, a deceitful thriller, and a surprisingly anti-frightening ghost story.

We discover soon enough that the man on the run is actually a migrant miner, skipping from job to job in constant fear of the harsh industry. He is followed ominously by a stone-faced man in a white suit and hat who is first seen by the young son taking a photograph of them behind distant plants. While on a mission to join a new agency he was appointed to, he finds only an abandoned mining town where a lonely woman (much like the one in Woman in the Dunes) sells candy. On a stroll through the barren terrain, he discovers the man in the white suit following him relentlessly until he is chased into tall grass and murdered. Because of his shady enigma, it's tempting to paint the murderer as a symbolic figure, but the film also hints that he's caught up in a corporate mix-up, thinking the miner is actually his doppelganger, a member of one of the halves of a split worker's union. Through a haunting use of backward slow motion, the man awakes as a ghost only to have the inevitable confirmed: ghosts cannot communicate with the living and are damned to spend the entirety of their postmortem existences in whatever state they were in at death. Nonetheless, the man strives for justice, following and peaking in at the conversations that make up his murder investigation. He prods, screams, stares, and suffocates the inspectors in a fruitless attempt to leak the truth. Finally, once the candy vendor is also killed by the enigmatic man, he can explain himself to someone in spite of the fact that the woman is deeply confused after seeing the man's doppelganger and therefore questioning the murder itself.

Amidst all of this, Teshigahara visually interprets Abe's themes of the nature of existence by treating the living and the dead with near equivalence; the ghosts are wholly capable of human emotion, their self-immersion and insistence upon explaining their fate mirrors the miner's greed, and there are no horrific connotations assigned to them. We see two separate, analogous worlds (living and nonliving) inhabiting one ghostly town which seems to hold no place in either. As usual with the Japanese artist, Pitfall is visually confounding cinema, a disconcerting journey into Kafkaesque surrealism filtered through a documentary-like attentiveness. There are mesmerizing shots of the endless cabins in the ravaged mining town, brief spurts of newsreel footage, unexpected special effects, and of course more macro images of bugs. The film is never as coherent and ultimately affecting as Woman in the Dunes, his acclaimed follow-up to Pitfall, because of its ambitious willingness to bounce around the narrative so freely, but we still get Teshigahara, Takemitsu, and Abe at their most inspired.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Umberto D. (1952) A Film by Vittorio De Sica

"A dog is a man's best friend" is a sentiment that has never been portrayed more aptly than it is in Vittorio De Sica's Umberto D. A monumental contribution to the Italian neorealist movement, the film chronicles Umberto Domenico Ferrari, a retired pensioner living off scraps in a one-room apartment he is in danger of being evicted from, and his adorably faithful dog Flike. Umberto is played by a non-professional named Carlo Battisti whose humane performance - one that he looks born for - almost guarantees no future acting repertoire. His existence, like many other elders (as shown in the opening protest), is marred by the difficult Italian postwar economic situation and the depersonalizing nature of modernity. Friendship, or simply human contact, does not come easily for Umberto; his snappy landlady, racked by bourgeois sensibilities, rudely reminds him constantly of his debts, the maid (also portrayed unprofessionally) hints at loyalty but is too weary-eyed and plain to be reliable, and the long-lost business partners he meets on his way are too self-absorbed to offer assistance. Throw in a cute and saintly dog to the mix and you have the ideal ingredients for an immodest weeper. However, Vittorio De Sica, who made his claim with the similarly honest The Bicycle Thief, deals with his subject with utmost matter-of-factness, supplementing overtly political material (the protest, community hospital sequences, a brutal dog pound) with pragmatic daily life (the maid's morning routine and Umberto's domestic struggle).

Sometimes De Sica's techniques mirror those of current contemplative filmmakers in his willingness to let his camera sit still and watch deliberately uninteresting activities at the expense of entertainment. For this, I commend his revolutionary courage (Italy produced loads of costume dramas and historical epics during this period). At the same time, I condemn the film's manipulative use of a typical movie score to stitch together the action; it seems De Sica stole a trick from the very films he was against and undermined the purity he was aiming for. This is a minor criticism though, for there is so much compassion in this film that it is rather easy to forgive a blemish or two.

Umberto D. is extremely understanding of its titular character and his relevant predicament. In the final and most heart-rending act, Umberto departs from his longtime apartment with a loose plan of lending his beloved dog to a trusty caretaker and subsequently ending his life. He approaches a haggard alleyway where a couple keeps scurrying dogs for money and, after inquiring about the price, he finds himself in a moral pickle. Umberto watches Flike cling to his leg while being growled at by the couple's bulldog a first time and musters up enough willpower to continue asking questions regarding the well-being of the dogs. All of his dignity teeters during this. The second time Flike whines by his ankle, the power of companionship pushes him to forget the negotiation and walk away. Although he continues his wrenching pursuit for Flike's new owner in a culminating sequence of brilliant emotional exchanges, this particular scene is the most telling example of De Sica's empathetic understanding: the pressures of socioeconomic struggles cannot overcome human dignity.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007) A Film by Andrew Dominik

There is certain grandeur in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, a treatment of the Western landscape as a lively vacuum that warps men into pawns or legends that recalls Terrence Malick's terrific romantic saga, Days of Heaven. The film's director, Andrew Dominik, seems to be heavily influenced by Malick in his refusal to deal with the written-on-the-wind outlaw Jesse James in a banal biopic manner, opting instead for a lyrical, meditative psychological study of the relationship of two men. As the lengthy title bluntly puts it, the film is studying Robert Ford (Casey Affleck) and his idol Jesse James (Brad Pitt), whom Robert finally gets the chance to meet when his brother Charley (Sam Rockwell) finds himself working in James' gang. Languorously, Dominik shows us the long days following James' final train robbery, when he invites the Ford brothers to stake out at his home with his wife and kids.

We watch Robert's unceasing fascination with James evolve into hero worship, and then fall down into jealous one-upping, prompted by the kick Charley gets out of teasing his brother for the collection of James memorabilia he owned growing up (he is only 20 in the film). Affleck's character's fetishes make for a prime example of the kind of romanticizing of men that featured prominently in late 1800's America. There was a powerful admiration for outlaws like Jesse who valued the greater good with little acknowledgment of the law. The film however, manages to de-sensationalize James, showing his base humanity, a rough, unpredictable (even psychotic) enigma. Pitt's portrayal of him is the finest of his career; underneath his coy smile lays a veil of uncertainty that is always vulnerable to erupt into hyena-like snickering or violent, in-your-face seriousness. Affleck also does one hell of a job as Ford, the slicked-haired, creepy young coward whose final attempt to bond himself with his idol is murder. The assassination scene is curious psychologically: in a living room with daylight pouring in, Pitt trudges over to a painting to dust it off while Affleck raises up the shimmering pistol that James just lent him for his birthday. James seems to have an awareness that he will be shot, or he is just testing Robert, or it is possible that he wants to end his life, because when Ford clicks the trigger in the silent room, James stiffly remains in his spot, dusting off the painting that clearly doesn't require immediate dusting.

After this taut scene, the film concludes with the life of Robert - now known nationally for his notorious crime - who eternally relives the murder through his theatrical rendering of it. This culminating act is also when the literary third-person narration (one of Dominik's troublesome choices) takes full steam, unfortunately explaining eloquently much of the depth that the film reveals more cinematically. Director of Photography Roger Deakins does a flawless job capturing the imposing countryside, frequently providing artful images of wheat fields, threatening skies, and snowy stretches of land. In fact, I think his gorgeous work here slightly improves on his showing in No Country for Old Men. Unfortunately, critics too often focus on the titanic length of The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (160 minutes), which I think scares viewers away. The length serves the epic sweep properly, and while there are some empty stretches, there is enough complex characterization in the film - and an acknowledgment of the dangers of allowing idolatry to slip into worship - to overcome any minor flaws.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Paranoid Park (2007) A Film by Gus Van Sant

Paranoid Park is the film from Gus Van Sant that directly follows his venture into conceptual art (Gerry, Elephant, and Last Days, in that order). The film has left me with extremely mixed feelings, and I'm driven to say that it is a film that uncomfortably bridges the aesthetic and narrative gap between Last Days and his latest Harvey Milk biopic. I have seen the film praised as a beautiful conjunction of the disparate talents Van Sant has shown in his career, from the rather conventional Hollywood narratives to the bold minimalist work. Conversely, this is the reason why I feel the film is his weakest showing in recent memory, leaning closer and more contrivedly to his existential trilogy while also awkwardly lumping in some hackneyed elements.

In keeping with his propensity towards relatively hip but nonetheless confused adolescents, Van Sant penetrates the character of Alex, a high school skateboarder with separated parents, a girlfriend he doesn't connect with, and an unsettling secret he nervously holds inside of him. Through MySpace, Van Sant discovered the bulk of his on-screen performers, Gabe Nevins being one of them in the role of Alex. Ironically canceling out the method of non-actors in the first place, Paranoid Park gains little semblance of truth throughout its duration. While Nevins does intend to play a character of withheld emotions, disconnection, and social anxiety, this is confused with wooden line-reading. Often times scenes that could be genuinely affecting are spoiled by Nevins' horrendous performance in the lead. Moreover, the friends around him - or the "skateboarding community" as a detective who investigates the death of a railroad attendant, the stem of Alex's turmoil, puts it - are stiff and simply embarrassing to watch. As a high school student (thankfully, just about finished), I can spot out such implausibility; the denizens of Paranoid Park speak with a severe lack of inflection that is certainly a harsh exaggeration of these types of students. The dialogue can be convincing but the acting immediately makes it artificial.

This breed of uncertainty extends to Van Sant's storytelling. Certainly I applaud his denial of convention, his ability to flow freely around the heart of his film while never losing complete control, but Paranoid Park is just a bit too jumbled. Both the soundtrack and the cinematography touch upon a broad arch of influences and sentiments; the spectrum of Elliot Smith ballads and Nina Rota excerpts to "Books"-esque experimental drones does not sit easily over the proceedings - especially given their spontaneous and brief interjections - and Chris Doyle's understated, casual images collide with grainy, slow-motion skateboarding footage. Although the latter often is a pleasing collision rather than a grating one, Van Sant's impressionistic flow does not frequently manage this. While there are many stirring scenes, like the close-up on Alex's soaking head in the shower to the mash-up of a sine wave and the exemplified natural sound of the running water (as usual, some of Van Sant's strongest scenes are saved for the shower), there is rarely a coherent or textured rhythm from sequence to sequence. All we see is the material for a potentially stimulating study of alienated adolescence.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Saddest Music in the World (2003) A Film by Guy Maddin

The 1930's were home to some great oddball studio films such as Freaks or Bela Lugosi's pictures, but none ever reached the lunacy of Guy Maddin's contemporary throwback films. He manages to input a modern sensibility to the rudimentary approaches of the 30's, spicing up his films with a myriad of obtuse elements that would not have been given a second thought in the era, unless perhaps they were seen through the lens of Luis Bunuel. The Canadian personality's 2003 superproduction, The Saddest Music in the World, takes off from a preposterous premise into utterly brilliant, amusing territory. In Depression-era Winnipeg, a legless beer baroness, played as a Goddess of sorrow by Isabella Rossellini, announces a contest to bring the saddest music from around the world to the world capital of depression for a prize of $25,000. In a zany, expressionistic theater, which has shades of Robert Weine's The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, different countries showcase their music in front of hordes of drunken audience members, their competitions decided by both the bellowing sound of a horn, the raucous audience, and the final say of Lady Port-Huntley's (Rossellini) thumb.

Along for the ride are several of Maddin's memorable characters, tangled in a melodramatic web of uncertain pasts: Chester Kent, a Yankee theater producer who recruits nearly every country's musicians by the culmination of the event; Fyodor Kent, Chester's war veteran father who hopelessly lusts after Lady Port-Huntley, Chester's ex-girl, and has an infatuation with legs, manifested in his basement by glass legs filled with Port-Huntley beer; Roderick Kent, another of Fyodor's sons, as a laughable depressive from Serbia who illogically takes blame for Gavrilo the Great's launching of the Great War and the death of 9 million; and finally Narcissa, Chester's present lady (Maria De Medeiros from Pulp Fiction recognition), an amnesiac nymphomaniac who may or may not be Roderick's inexplicably lost wife. Maddin steeps his characters in bizarre histrionics, making it no surprise when Roderick discusses the jar he holds in his pocket, which contains his dead son's heart encrusted in his own tears. It's a kind of comedy that is strictly esoteric, but for me it worked perfectly.

The film evolves inside a kitschy artificial set that was constructed completely inside a frigid Winnipeg studio. Houses look as if they've been expanded from those inside snowglobes and are subsequently bent in unusual directions. A paper snow flutters around the action throughout most of the film, fusing into one with the grain that sits relentlessly over the super 8 footage that makes up Maddin's personal aesthetic. To achieve a hyper-foggy effect, vaseline was smeared on the lens in concentric circles, allowing for the bleached out faces of the actors to wisp away into the edges of the frame. Thematically, Maddin shoots for a scathing, unsubtle satire of a stereotypically depressing Canada. The dull angst of Rossellini's character is very humorous when paired with Chester's stupid optimism. The motif of beer as a method for drowning out sorrows is also hilariously overdone, so much that the winners of the musical duels shoot down slides into tubs of it and Lady Port-Huntley winds up putting a pair of Fyodor's basements souvenirs to good use. The Saddest Music in the World cements Maddin as a visual innovator and a clever veteran of magic realism.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire (2008) A Film by Danny Boyle

The decision that the Academy makes on "Best Picture" has always seemed to elude my understanding, so I was not necessarily surprised when I found myself scratching my head at the end of Danny Boyle's latest film, Slumdog Millionaire. Last year I watched Paul Thomas Anderson's magisterial There Will be Blood get snubbed, and this year, I could have taken Clint Eastwood's Changeling (which was not even nominated) or Gus Van Sant's Milk over this melodramatic underdog story set in the slums of Mumbai, India. Up to this point, Danny Boyle has not proved his seriousness as a filmmaker, no matter how much he delves into weighty subject matter. Slumdog Millionaire, though, at least showcases Boyle as a kinetic entertainer, which even escaped me in his earlier hit Trainspotting, a film that was rambunctiously stylized but ultimately airless.

The "Best Picture" winner details the improbable story of a "slumdog" named Jamal Malik who triumphs on the Indian version of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?", only to be accused of cheating. We discover through jittery flashbacks that his goal in participating in the show was to be seen on the television by his childhood love, Latika. He insists that money is not his incentive, although once the show's air time is pushed to a second night, you'd think he'd be satisfied. Instead he clings to flashbulb memories from his youth, which always conveniently provide him the answers to nearly every question that gets thrown his way by the slimy host. Through his teenage years, we see the days leading up to his unlikely chance to cooperate on the show (a bit that teeters on explanation but eventually is dismissed altogether), where he discovers a lovelorn Latika after several years under the wing of a malicious, womanizing executive.

The social realities of poverty-stricken India are only skimmed over in Jamal's youth, but nonetheless provide the hard-nosed substance of most of the film. Jamal and his brother Salim sprint from street to street in a perpetual escape from danger, but frequently can not avoid it: in one gritty scene, we see the two with friends captured by frightening men who blind them in a dark forest. As they kneel above the flames beside them however, one cannot help but recall a visually congruent scene in Fernando Meirelles' City of God involving a ritual with the film's antagonist, Lil Ze. In fact, much of Slumdog Millionaire appears to have used the Brazilian masterpiece as a reference point; the frenetic, highly saturated visuals - which frequently use the teeming neighborhoods as abstractions from bird's-eye views - are rip-off material, and whereas City of God lingered on this style as a means of rubbing your face relentlessly in the squalor, narratively necessary or not, Boyle's film only undermines its bouts of realism with consistent impossibilities and a nauseatingly fantastical ending.

How is it that each question happens to trigger a minor memory of Jamal's youth? How does a very minimally educated boy learn English rapidly enough to act as the tour guide for a group of Americans visiting the Taj Mahal? Where did Latika purchase a cell phone that would ring for five minutes, precisely enough time for her to watch the first few rings on the television as Jamal phones a friend and subsequently dash the long stretch back to her car where the phone sat? Everything is too coincidental, which is fine in a Bollywood film, but not in a film that attempts to use realism so heavily. Fortunately, after so much misfortune, Jamal finally embraces Latika in a subway station and kisses her to yet another pseudo-moving Indian pop song. The camera freeze frames on the two before the credits roll. Sounds just like Disney, and it kills to see such a sentimental ending spoil an otherwise exciting, if implausible, film. Not to mention I prefer directors who refrain from bathing their characters from film to film in fecal matter.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Zlateh the Goat (1973) A Short Film by Gene Deitch

Zlateh the Goat is a gently thought-provoking little super-8 film based off of a children's story of the same name by Isaac Bashevis Singer. Lucid and dialogue-free, Gene Deitch, a Prague-based illustrator, animator, and filmmaker (who has directed several Tom and Jerry episodes), directed this parable about a Polish family who is forced to sell their goat to the town butcher on account of the need to purchase holiday supplies such as candles and food instead. The setting is an austere Polish village before the onslaught of a late winter, and is cushioned within the economic and cultural strife of pre-World War II. It's not easy to write the film off as simply a juvenile piece. Besides the typically instructive narration which bookends the film (and which is clearly suited to children), Zlateh the Goat approaches the plain poeticism of Albert Lamorisse's structurally and thematically similar White Mane.

Deitch introduces the short with images of familial comfort, first capturing a cozy shot of the small wooden cabin and then entering the house to surround a family who wears their worries as blatantly as a bad toupée. They decide on sending their eldest son on a voyage to town to greet the butcher, who is familiarized in an uneasy image beside a skinned mammal, and also in the close-up scraping of knives. These shots are intercut with sharp wind intruding on the boy's path, a weather pattern that gradually evolves into torrential snowfall. A very palpable negative connotation envelops the butcher, and by extension the trip towards him. Eventually the whiteout snow renders the boy and Zlateh (pulled by rope) a tiny dot amidst their unfavorable surroundings. Meanwhile, Deitch flashes momentary, evocative glimpses at the boy's tense mother at home, slumped beside the window of course. The boy thankfully discovers a tall heap of hay where he escapes from the cold field with his goat, who eventually provides him with milk and warmth.

This, the middle section of the film, is the most accomplished, appearing almost Bressonian in its simplistic rythym. Melancholy strings accompany the entire affair, exemplifying the touching nature of the boy and goat's relationship. As the snow piles up around the stack of hay - the exterior shots of which are abstract and recurrent - and the boy holds his goat tight, Deitch cuts away to comforting images of a sunny poppy field. Surely this is the type of poetry that a child can grasp, and it's rather sentimental, but it comes across swiftly and poignantly; Deitch certainly knows how to make his way through a story sparingly, and one can imagine him marking off checkpoints as he goes. It's a film that is quite enjoyable to look at, with its grainy footage never demanding of attention, and Deitch also figures out a way to throw "the interdependence of man and nature" into a child's set of knowledge.

Friday, March 6, 2009

You, The Living (Du Levande) A Film by Roy Andersson (2007)

A bottomless optimism repeatedly crawls out of the mouths of several of You, The Living's sleepwalking characters, giving Roy Andersson's follow-up to Songs from the Second Floor a slightly different ring: "Tomorrow is a new day," they say. Not surprisingly though, given the Swedish director's wry cynicism, the next day always finds little by way of improvement. But if there's one means of solace in life for Andersson and his deadpan models, it's alcohol. "With all the misery in the world, how can we not get drunk?" barks a horrendously obese woman towards her old mother, standing before the hot stove in their kitchen. You, The Living shares the same sentiments as the stunning Songs from the Second Floor, and in its unmistakable style - a carbon copy of its grim predecessor - the film works as a more celebratory companion piece.

Songs explores the roots of the existential conundrum of humanity, whereas You, The Living rarely penetrates the surface, gently probing us with one thought: "yes, life is indeed tough, but why can't we enjoy something here and there?" Andersson rarely gives his characters much to write home about, but as a lovesick girl who wanders somberly through the film displays, happiness (as distinguished from the impermanent satisfaction of alcohol) can only truly exist inside people's dreams, not concrete reality, especially when that reality is one where husbands call their wives hags, dying woman are physically incapable of reflecting on the warm memories of early life, hairdressers ruin their clients' coiffures on account of personal problems, and men open their apartment doors to allow their German Shepherds to verbally destroy hallway dwellers.

The Sweden that is populated in Andersson's work is like nothing in cinema; his world is constructed entirely from sets with cardboard-like backdrops, in which walls are painted with the same deathly lack of vibrancy that permeates the sullen faces arranged meticulously on screen. He works largely with interiors, accentuating the drab, claustrophobic perspectives while also finding moments to jumble the frame in an extremely pedantic manner. Often times, one can watch three or more scenes evolving in one static camera take; for example, after an annoyed man bangs the ceiling of his living room to the discordance of a tuba player practicing on the floor above, the shot cuts across the street to another apartment building where a blank husband stares at the two lit-up rooms from his balcony. We gaze closely, as if viewing a Peter Bruegel painting, and Andersson's blackly comic staging always manages to enhance the experience. The opening twenty minutes had me laughing uncontrollably, much like the other buffoons around me, as I watched one uproarious vignette after another.

While the film does not completely maintain the same attack and energy of this brilliant succession of sight gags, it is thoroughly engrossing throughout. Also, when the camera escapes from its usual stasis towards the end, Andersson supplies a breathtaking, uncharacteristically uplifting dream sequence involving a moving house carrying newlyweds which is greeted by a supportive crowd. You, The Living almost touches the borders of Fellini in scenes like this; Andersson shows similar - albeit still imbued with his distinguishable gloom - enthusiasm for waltzing celebration as the Italian maestro. This brief interjection of emotions not in the vein of despair is undeniably a welcome one for the director. Although tomorrow carries no promise of betterment for Andersson, at least it's perpetually hysterical.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Third Man (1949) A Film by Carol Reed

Carol Reed's noir thriller The Third Man contains a sequence towards the end that is often said to be one of Orson Welles' defining moments on screen. He is playing Harry Lime, a friend of cheeky American novelist Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten), who, in this scene, is witnessing Lime for the first time after investigating his supposed death in Vienna. The two ascend on a ferris wheel and Welles gives a wonderfully quick-witted speech that, like the carnival device they are stationed on, goes in circles continuously. It's a nicely written scene by Welles himself, but it lasts so quickly that it brings into question the performance itself. Surely any great actor can enter a film for a moment and deliver some eccentricities, but should this mean they are remembered so fondly for the entire tenure of their art?

This scene is much like the remaining scenes in The Third Man, an impermanent romp that feels out of step with the rest of the film. Indeed, I do believe the film is largely overrated and is by no means the classic it is almost ubiquitously regarded as. This bothersome modular quality in the film is also reflected in Roger Ebert's review; each paragraph lists seemingly meritable aspects of Reed's picture but fails to bring it to any sort of cohesion, some sort of decision on why the several parts add up to a solid whole.

The film follows Holly Martins on his trip through a post-war Vienna, meeting Lime's associates and his rigorously loyal girlfriend Anna (Alida Valli), but finding that the truth is rather elusive. A British official named Calloway insists Holly stop wasting time over Lime, for he was an unjust man. Nonetheless, Martins continues his search, naive in the face of it as well as his company with Anna, whom he fruitlessly tries to flatter. Reed tells the story with a weakness for economy, diverting from his thriller plot several times to focus on mundane aspects of Holly Martins' bluntly American character, who Joseph Cotten plays quite forcefully.

Robert Krasker's cinematography is likely the high point of the endeavor; the murky Vienna streets are extremely well photographed, lending an expressionistic glaze over the story, but the film does not embellish his visuals for lengthy amount of times, save in the final, and best, sewer scene. In spite of this, Krasker manages to give birth to one of my biggest pet peeves in cinema: the wretched tilted angle shot. It seems a far too literal way to evoke a crooked, out of synch atmosphere, not to mention leaves a viewer's neck with a subtle ache by the roll of the credits.

Elsewhere, Anton Karas' famous zither score is only detrimental to The Third Man. Its annoyingly repetitive and clanky sound blatantly contrasts the mise-en-scene, turning what should have been a low-key thriller setup into a story that nearly seems to be a parody of itself. Although the surface elements of the film are extremely disjoint, there does seem to be something stirring underneath, a notion that is hinted at in the final scene involving the men chasing Lime through the shadowy Vienna underbelly with (beneficially) no zither. Sometimes however, it's just too difficult to get past the film's lackluster pacing and bother to find out.