Michael Parkinson, king of the chat shows in the UK, once opined that “movies are about moments”. In many ways, I am sure he is right. British Prime Minister, David Cameron, decided to tell us this week that “Lawrence of Arabia” was his favorite film, as he tweeted about the death of that film's star, Peter O'Toole.
And that prompts me to mention my favorite film moment. The film is Carol Reed's extraordinary film noir, “The Third Man”. Filmed in the late 1940s in Vienna, the atmosphere in the movie is electric. American reporter Holly Martins has traveled to the city to meet up with his old friend Harry Lime, who, he learns on arrival, has just been killed. At the funeral, there was a mysterious “Third Man”. Who was this man? Why was Lime (whose image, played by the great Orson Welles dominates the film) killed? And why was Martins being followed.
My favorite moment is about two thirds the way into the film. It is the famous man-in-the-doorway scene. I am painfully aware that a younger generation has now grown up who have not seen this film, nor read the book on which it is based, with a screenplay actually adapted by the book's own author, Graham Greene. There isn't a single camera shot in this film which is not important to the story, and it was only on my second viewing that I realized with a shock the significance of the cat in this movie moment. If I tell you the significance, I will give away the plot – though the film is so famous, you can easily find the spoilers online. In fact, even pointing out that the cat is significant might, possibly, spoil part of the film for you. Yet it is this combination of shadows, intrigue, mystery and the flawed, alcoholic vulnerability of the film's anti-hero, Holly Martins, that makes this film so compelling. And the entire plot seems to pivot, in my opinion, around this one classic moment – the Man-in-the-Doorway moment, from The Third Man.