Why, you ask. Why?
- It was written by Graham Greene, first of all, one of the most interesting and undervalued authors of the 20th century. Seriously, this guy knew what in the hell he was doing and why he was doing it. He was clear-headed enough in his confusing time to understand the clear evil that is rampant self-centeredness.
- It has the tightest plot development I've ever seen.
- Its driving sound track played simply on a zither weaves into the movie so well that it becomes a character itself.
- It presents an ethical/moral dilemma that is complex yet simple in its outcome. The exploration of Harry Lime's crimes (what a rhyme there) is stunning. You could apply it to our current situation in Iraq quite readily.
- It explores, q.v. above, Americanism in all its naive and horrific glory. The contrast between Holly Martins and Harry Lime creates this weird, world-weary naivte. It is not the Henry James ignorant American. This (Holly Martins) is a gruf American who is supposedly "happy as a lark," idealistic, until he confronts his friend at 15 Stutgart, Harry Lime who is his foil: a corrupt gangster who provides bad medicine to children.
- Valli: the quintessential European girlfriend we all wish we had.
- The best opening narrative from an inconsequential character:
I never knew the old Vienna before the war with its Strauss music, its glamour and easy charm. Constantinople suited me better. I really got to know it in the classic period of the black market. We'd run anything if people wanted it enough and whom had the money to pay. Of course a situation like that does tempt amateurs but, well, you know they can't stay the course like a professional." --Stay the course, oh my! That is probably the best opening for a story(film) that I've ever hear/seen/read. (cg)
- The most intricate film noir production aside from Maltese Falcon.
- A stunning slap in the face to all that we hold holy, witnessed by Orson Welles' supposedly improvised speech when he is menacing the Joseph Cotten character with a quick trip to the bone yard from the heights of a rather modern ferris wheel:
You know, I never feel comfortable on these sort of things. Victims? Don't be melodramatic. Tell me. Would you really feel any pity if one of those dots stopped moving forever? If I offered you twenty thousand pounds for every dot that stopped, would you really, old man, tell me to keep my money, or would you calculate how many dots you could afford to spare? Free of income tax, old man. Free of income tax - the only way you can save money nowadays.....Don't be so gloomy. After all it's not that awful. Like the fella says, in Italy for 30 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 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock. So long Holly.
As I said: stunning--simply stunning.