Life is a tragedy for those who feel, and a comedy for those who think.
Jean de La Bruyère
Life is a tragedy for those who feel, and a comedy for those who think.
Jean de La Bruyère
If someone asked you to name a movie starring Joseph Cotten and Orson Welles, I suppose your answer would be Citizen Kane. Well, here’s a different answer, “The Third Man.” And here’s another difference, Welles isn’t the filmmaker here, he’s just a supporting player. Of course, being Orson Welles in 1948 means that “just” has a little more to it than just “just.”
Joseph Cotton is Holly Martins an American writer of dime novel westerns. He arrives in Vienna which at the time is an occupied city divided into sectors controlled by the post-WWII victorious allies (the United States, Britain, France and Russia). This is narrated for us along with the realities of such a conquered place. The locals survive by supplementing their impoverished legal trades with black market transactions on everything from cigarettes to tires to adulterated pharmaceuticals. Holly has come to Vienna to work for his childhood friend, Harry Lime (Orson Welles). It is never explained what exactly he was supposed to be employed as but that quickly becomes an academic question.
When Holly reaches the building where Harry lives, he’s told by the building porter that Harry was run over by a truck and killed a day or two before. Holly goes to the burial and there we see the film’s other main characters although not all of them are introduced. After the funeral Martins is approached by two British military policemen, Major Calloway, played by Trevor Howard and Sergeant Paine played with great cockney panache by Bernard Lee. It turns out Sergeant Paine is a literary fan of Matins’ novels and indirectly facilitates the plot by introducing Martins to a literary society in Vienna that will bankroll Martins’ travelling expenses in return for a lecture on modern literature, a subject with which Martins is sorely unfamiliar.
But what Calloway and Paine are really interested in is warning Martins to leave Vienna to avoid the fallout from the police investigation into the criminal activities of his friend Harry Lime. Martins is insulted by the statement that his friend was a criminal and decides to stay in Vienna to find out what really was the case with his friend and somehow clear his name with the police.
Through a meeting with one of Harry’s friends Holly finds out about Harry’s girlfriend Anna and he goes to see her to try and get the true story from her. As Holly and Anna talk about Harry, we find out that she is like Holly an idealistic individual that Harry charmed and dragged into his dangerous but exciting life. We begin to suspect that the police are right about Harry. And together Holly and Anna discover some strange details about Harry’s death. The building porter reveals to them that when Harry was run down by the truck, in addition to the two friends of Harry’s that stayed to give testimony to the police about the accident there was a “third man” who did not stay but rushed away. And the porter’s story differed from the account that Holly was given by Harry’s friends, in ways that could only be obvious lies.
As the couple begin to ruffle feathers there begins some fallout. Anna is visited by the police, including Calloway and Paine. It turns out that she has a passport that Harry manufactured. And because of this she will have to be deported to the Russian zone for eventual deportation to Czechoslovakia. Further fallout occurs with the subsequent murder of the porter. And finally, one of Harry’s “friends” threatens Holly if he continues looking into Harry’s death. When Holly defies him, some thugs pursue Holly through the nightscape of bombed out Vienna. He escapes and ends up at Anna’s apartment where we find that he is falling in love with her. But just when the movie is drifting away from Harry, Anna’s cat down on the street below her apartment signals that a stranger is lurking and when a window in one of the adjoining apartments flashes on, it reveals that the lurker is Harry Lime. Holly runs out to catch him but Lime escapes into an entrance to the sewers of Vienna.
And now Holly contacts Harry’s friends that he knows Harry is alive and wants to meet him in a public (safe) place; a giant Ferris Wheel nearby in the city. And sure enough, Harry shows up and they get into one of the cars of the wheel and talk. And now Holly learns the truth about Harry. He is the criminal mastermind who runs a stolen penicillin racket. Holly tells him that the police have discovered that a medical orderly that was in on the penicillin racket was murdered to provide Harry’s “body” for his faked death. When Holly confronts him with the deaths that have occurred from the diluted drugs he sells Harry reveals just how callous and Machiavellian he truly is. Harry reiterates his desire to have Holly join him in his criminal enterprise but he also clearly warns him that bringing in the police would be a very dangerous thing for Holly to do.
Holly decides that because of Harry’s poor treatment of Anna he will make a deal with Calloway to allow them to catch Harry in exchange for Calloway fixing Anna’s deportation problem. When Anna finds out that her freedom is being purchased at the cost of Harry’s betrayal to the police, she rejects it and also rejects Holly’s affection. She says she will remain loyal to Harry. Holly then decides to leave Vienna and leave Harry, Anna and the police to their own devices. But on the way to the airport Calloway brings Martins to the hospital where the child victims of Harry’s drugs are housed. Their broken bodies fill Martin with remorse and he agrees to be the bait in a trap to catch Harry. Harry shows up and at the last second Anna shows up and warns Harry away. A pursuit follows with police guarding all the exits from the sewer system. Holly, Calloway and Paine are in on the hunt. Finally with Harry cornered, Holly too openly approaches Harry. While Paine attempts to pull Holly back out of the line of fire, he is himself fatally shot by Lime. Calloway manages to shoot Lime as he retreats to a last exit below the street. Unable to exit the sewer grating he waits as Holly approaches him with Paine’s gun in hand. Harry looks at Martins and nods his head in acceptance and a shot rings out followed by Martins walking back to the police line. At the second burial of Harry Lime we see Calloway and Martins. Anna is there separately. Calloway has his jeep and is once again supposed to drive Martins to the airport. But as they pass Anna, Martins tells Calloway to let him out. The final shot is a long take of Anna approaching a waiting Martins and then continuing on without looking at him at all.
This is in many ways an utterly strange movie, especially from an American point of view. There is something disturbing to the American sensibility about the degraded and broken aspect of Vienna. This is communicated in the images of the broken cityscape but also in the furtiveness and guarded nature of the inhabitants’ speech and behavior. Dishonesty and criminality and just the wretchedness of life in the shattered place pervades the movie. Also, the film has a soundtrack that is a repetition of a song played on a zither. This is a stringed Eastern European instrument that I can’t claim to enjoy all that much.
By contrast, the Anglophone characters, Martins, Calloway, Paine and eventually Lime are wholly different. They exude energy and confidence. They seem to be bits of normalcy suspended in this fog of hopelessness. Even Harry Lime, the criminal mastermind has that American quality to speak openly and unashamedly even about his evil. He swims in this putrid ocean but he hasn’t assumed the coloration of his surroundings.
As I said the story is very strange and I think off-putting. But the scene at the Ferris Wheel is very interesting. We get to hear the devil defend his trade. And that I think is the interesting thing about the movie. Calloway and Paine are fun in their proper Englishness. The Holly/Anna relationship really didn’t do much for me. So, the show is Holly and Harry. And coming right down to it it’s Harry.
And the essence of Harry is his parting shot to Holly at the Wheel. “Don’t be so gloomy. After all it’s not that awful. But what the fellow said – in Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, they had five hundred years of democracy and peace – and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock. So long Holly.”
So Harry is the charming, interesting devil you know and like. The point of the story, if there is a point, is that charming and familiar as he is, he’s still the devil and you can’t let him kill kids even for old times’ sake.
So am I recommending the movie? Maybe I’m a bit of a xenophobe. I’m put off by the atmosphere of the movie. And I know that is mostly my parochial tastes. Because after all this is a film noir and they’re always supposed to exude seediness and unwholesomeness. I seem to excuse it in many of the film noirs from America. So, let’s say I call this a good film, which it is, but throw in some cautions for those who are xenophobic like me and despise zither music.
Tonight, I was looking through my old posts to see if I had any unfinished series that I should continue on. About three and a half years ago I wrote the first part of a review of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movie series. I called it “Tolkien: A Very, Very Long Story – Part 1 – On the Screen vs. the Mind’s Eye.” That’s a good name for a review of the Jackson films. But going over it, I realized that starting with the films would short circuit an enormous amount of material in the books that I would much rather discuss first. So that is what I’m going to do. When I get back to the movies, I’ll reference these posts on the books as a baseline for my opinions on Tolkien and his remarkable creation.
As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I read the Lord of the Rings over fifty years ago. Over time some of my opinions of the work have changed somewhat. But my enjoyment of the story remains intact. The world building that Tolkien did provides the reader with depth and scope to enjoy the story on several levels. There is the quest for the destruction of the Ring. There is the story of Aragorn. There is the fading of the elves and the other non-human beings. There is the mission of the wizards. There is the Shire. And most of all there is the War of the Ring. And under all these themes we have the panorama of Middle Earth. The quaint Shire, the lonely wilds of Eriador, the harrowing heights and abysmal depths of the Misty Mountains. The grassland of Rohan, the grandeur of Gondor and the shadowy horror of Mordor. Tolkien brings all these things alive in our minds. And he populates this world with a crowd of characters of all manner of creatures. We have several kinds of men and we have several kinds of elves. We have dwarves and hobbits. There are wizards and orcs and trolls and ents. There are undead creatures and intelligent animals of several types; wargs (a kind of wolf), eagles and even an ancient and giant spider.
All of these creatures, wizards, elves, dwarves and orcs are now common characters in all the fantasy books and movies around. But people forget that Tolkien was the one who resurrected these creatures from fairy tales and returned them to the level of mythical creatures full of menace and wonder. The Lord of the Rings was the template for every epic fantasy, both well-written or awful that has emerged in the last half century. And not taking anything away from some well-crafted creations that some talented writers have produced, none of them has displaced Middle Earth as the touchstone of this particular type of fantasy world. Because Middle Earth is the creation of a worldview that incorporates the myths of northwest Europe and imbues them with the moral philosophy inherited from medieval Christianity. The Shire is Britain. Rohan is the Germanic Tribes. Gondor is the legendary Roman Empire, once spanning Middle Earth from Britain to the Near East now ceding territory to younger tribes and hedged in by Eastern and Southern foes. Mordor is the infidel barbarism at the edges of the world. Tolkien was a gifted philologist and historian of medieval Europe with a deep and wide knowledge of its literature and folklore. And he was a devout Christian.
This re-imagining of European history with the non-human peoples and the angelic and demonic creatures that are analogs of Christian theology make a very powerful mythic background to fill out the story of Frodo and his friends. And that is the point I want to make in this introduction. In future installments I’ll give my thoughts on various aspects of Tolkien’s story. Since they’re my opinions I won’t apologize if I commit any sins against the Tolkien orthodoxies. I’ve been thinking about this stuff for a very long time so I feel I have the right to have my say. But I also welcome comments both agreeing and disagreeing with my opinions.
There are certain things in which mediocrity is intolerable: poetry, music, painting, public eloquence. What torture it is to hear a frigid speech being pompously declaimed, or second-rate verse spoken with all a bad poet’s bombast!
Jean de La Bruyère
This is just an introduction to my new project. Previously I believed the goal was to wake up enough normal Americans to be able to shake off the craziness that had been foisted on us by the UniParty. I now see that the UniParty has no intention to allow that kind of thing to happen. And nothing as unimportant as a majority of people demanding it would prevent them from maintaining their strangle hold on power at all levels of society.
So, to my way of thinking I have to perform an analysis to determine what is my best strategy to deal with the world as it really is. A while ago I said there were several broad options if it turned out that normal Americans were outnumbered at the polls. From my way of thinking this is actually worse. We’re not outnumbered we’ve been outmaneuvered. But either way it boils down to the same situation. We will be under a federal government that has no interest in constitutional rights and will impose its will on us in a particularly offensive way.
In that series of posts, I said the options were to fold, flee or fight. Those are still the main choices. What I’ll do in this series is look at the specifics of what that means for normal people. For instance, if you intend to continue to live in a blue state how will you protect your children from the influence of the school systems and provide them with the information they’ll need to avoid the pitfalls that are built into life in the heart of the Leftist beast. You’ll have to explain to them what they’ll be forced to do to avoid losing an education, a job or a business. If someone decides they want to fight back against the system that will require knowing what resources and organizations exist to aid in that effort. And if moving to a red state is your plan, I’ll provide what I can find about that option.
I fully expect that this series will be a slow work in progress but I figured I’d announce it because, let’s face it, these people we’re up against aren’t going anywhere and if we’re serious about fighting them we have more than our work cut out for us. This is a generational project that will need to be pursued in an organized and methodical way. I think that the only hope going forward is for President Trump to act as the founder of a new political movement, maybe even a political party, the whole focus of which is to restore the Constitutional freedoms that have been taken away from us.
A movement is needed with plenty of support from the rich and powerful to start organizing the resources, needed to fight back against the Elitists that have taken away our way of life. We’ll need our own social media and news companies; we’ll need smart lawyers to defend us and we’ll need governors and state attorneys general and legislatures to pass and enforce laws to protect us from the Left.
So that’s a start off the top of my head. I’ll add to this as I have a chance to do some research.
Real knowledge never promoted either turbulence or unbelief; but its progress is the forerunner of liberality and enlightened toleration.
Henry Brougham, 1st Baron Brougham and Vaux
It is December 1st 2020 so I am fervently hoping that President Trump will be successful in forcing the courts and the legislatures to acknowledge the overwhelming evidence of wholesale fraud and assign him the election win. But regardless of the outcome of that effort we have to come to grips with the fact that the country we thought we lived in does not exist.
Now that’s a bold statement but I think it’s undeniably true. The last election was not a squeaker that could have turned on the margin of error. Unlike 2016 President Trump had massive new support in the swing states that he needed to win. And that was obviously apparent right up until the switch was pulled in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan and Wisconsin. In each state President Trump was decisively ahead when the counting was shut down and the observers were sent home and the fake ballots were trucked in by the hundreds of thousands and the fake count was performed without honest witnesses to confirm that the ballots were legitimate. All the other jazz about the electronic systems in place may be as horrendous as they say. That’s harder for me to know about. But the obvious fraud is what we’re left with.
Now what kind of country do these sorts of things happen in? Well, you can think of a whole bunch of names. Oligarchy is the sophisticated name. When I was growing up it would have been called a banana republic. The term that I think is appropriate is gangster state. Without a doubt we haven’t reached the level of brutality that Saddam Hussein was famous for but it’s really only a matter of degree or maybe a more sophisticated sense of taste. After all, the FBI, the Justice Department and the judiciary tortured General Flynn and others of the Trump team psychologically for more than four years with no evidence of a crime having been committed and the media has used concerted propaganda campaigns, supported by the social media companies against half the country for almost a decade. And now that the Left has made riot, looting and arson business as usual I can’t see how anyone can claim that there is a qualitative difference between what goes on in the United States and what goes on in Venezuela or Syria. Say what you like, you can’t call that kind of regime democratic or even legitimate. When the law is enforced selectively and based on partisan advantage then tyranny and dictatorship are perfectly accurate descriptions for that type of regime.
And that is my whole point for this post. Things should be called by their right names. Words shouldn’t hide reality. Calling a place, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is just making believe that the word democratic doesn’t mean rule by the people. So, let’s call the place we live in by what it truly is. Let’s call it the Democratic People’s Republic of America. I wonder if Kim Jong-Un could send one of those stylish outfits he wears to Creepy Uncle Joe. It would look just about right on the Dear Leader.