A limerick a week #159

And ‘zing’ went the strings of her heart

The Third Man, Britain’s finest film noir, celebrated its 70th anniversary this year and a restored version of it was recently screened by the British Film Institute in UK cinemas.

The viewing was preceded by an introduction to the zither and the soundtrack for which the film is renowned (by Cornelia Mayer) and was followed by a Q&A with Angela Allen, the only surviving member of the film crew, and Hossein Amini, a modern-day screenwriter. (You can read about ‘behind the scenes’ here.)

Mayer and Allen were amusing, informative and entertaining. Amini was less so, often commenting on the basis of assumptions rather than fact, only to be shot down by Allen (or, in the words of Max Boyce, “I know ‘cos I was there”). Amini unintionally irritated me by referring to film noirs instead of films noir; in my view an unforgiveable mistake from a man of the movies!

The film showcases the blackmarket and air of gloom in post-war Vienna and, unlike earlier DVD releases or TV showings, the restored version of the film is pin-sharp and the narrative can be heard clearly above the background music; in fact the audio is superb.

Allen clearly held one of the principal actors, Orson Welles, in contempt. His late appearance meant that distant shots were often of a stand-in rather than Welles. His refusal to venture into the city’s sewers more than once also meant that a stand-in had to be used (not so much a third man as a turd man😂) and any close-ups from the sewer scenes were shot in a reconstructed stage set in London. (Actually, the sewers at the point of filming were not foul-water sewers, so there was no stench; it was more like an underground river).

Allen gave us snippets – the famous scene from street level of the mortally wounded Harry Lime’s fingers reaching up through a grate to escape the sewer was of the director, Carol Reed’s, digits and not those of Welles – and was authoritative in saying that Welles was not there for most of the filming, let alone effectively directing much of it as he once claimed.

Alida Valli as the lovelorn Anna, once touted as the new Ingrid Bergman, shows in her performance just why that claim was made. Wikipedia tells us that she gave up that epithet by rejecting Holywood and focusing her career in her native Italy. (BTW her full name was Baroness Alida Maria Laura Altenberger von Marckenstein-Frauenberg!) Joseph Cotten as Holly “I haven’t got a sensible name” Martins and Trevor Howard as Major “it’s Calloway-not-Callaghan” are perfect for their rôles and Welles as Harry Lime clearly performed better than he behaved.

Here’s the limerick (based on one of the most famous final scenes in all of filmdom)

Anna’s grief raced hither and thither
Now Harry was no longer with her
So she made Holly gawk
At her funereal walk
To the sad parting notes of a zither.

… and in case you want an alternative ending, here’s the one that I originally penned that inspired this post’s header, but later rejected:

As her heartstrings were plucked like a zither.

I referenced The Third Man in an earlier post, and make no excuse for once more including a still from the final scene and my comment that accompanied it:

A long, slow walk to the accompaniment of the haunting refrains of Anton Karas’ zither as Anna decides that a happy ending is far too bourgeois for one of the 20th century’s most pivotal films noir …

… or watch here as Anna walks out of Holly’s life:

Postscript: The Third Man completes a trilogy of classic films noir that I’ve seen on the big screen thus year: a special Valentine’s Day screening of Casablanca, Gilda at Aberdeen’s Granite Noir festival and now The Third Man. A good year for the classics!

A limerick a week #82

Swipe right for Scotsmen!

As a student many years ago, I once lost a bet (and a fiver!) because I felt sure that whomsoever it was that played the male lead in Play Misty For Me, it certainly wasn’t Clint Eastwood. Doh!

“Misty,” huh? We have that right on a play rack. Thanks for calling”.

The film itself is about a woman obsessed with a radio DJ who she thinks ‘does her wrong’; thereafter her obsession with him becomes increasingly psychotic. The same theme is repeated in Fatal Attraction whereas the protagonist in another obsession movie, Misery, is more concerned with an author’s decision to kill off her favourite literary character.

Although I have serious reservations about the portrayal of mentally ill women in movies as merely ‘deranged obsessives’, all three films came to mind earlier this week when I saw an astonishing dating request in The Scotsman (I wasn’t trawling through its Lonely Hearts column, the entry just jumped off the page – honest!). You can read it yourself, look:

Maybe ambitious, maybe wishful, maybe sad – probably innocent – but just a bit spooky!

Does it preface a leap into a brave new world for Maria and her unfulfilled ambition? Does its roots lie in a sorrow of sorts? Or is it just a bit weird?

I’m sure it’s heartfelt and innocent, but I need a limerick so, with the help of the aforementioned movie genre, I shall capriciously interpret it as creepy! Here goes:

An Austrian Frau called Maria
Seeks a Scotsman that she can revere,
But I’ve seen Misery
And Play Misty for Me,
So she’s Fatally Attractive, I fear!

That was my year that was

I’m quite pleased to see the back of 2016,  but for what it’s worth here are some pics for my ‘best of’ compendium for the year …

Best new experience of the year:

A bread-making course at ‘Bread Ahead’ (Borough Market, London). Just me and a bunch of Chelsea girls loafing around …

You know you’re in trouble when your sourdough goes a-rye

Best ice-cream of the year:

Beating Zanoni’s of Vienna by a short head was the first ice-cream pit stop of the year.

Cycling on a sundae …

Best blog idea of the year:

A limerick a week. How else can one show one’s proficiency at celebrating #TeamDemelza in verse with an anapestic meter and strict rhyme scheme?

Why a limerick? Because ‘There was once a man who wrote poems …’

Best cycle ride of the year:

Finally, at the age of 24, Firstborn scraped her knee whilst participating in a physical outdoor activity. Her mother was so proud 🙂

Blood, sweat and gears …

Best health tip of the year:

… and from the Graun: Bike rides and hot baths – a fitness match made in heaven and it’s official!

Oh dear, I’m in hot water again!

Best impression of a marine mammal of the year:

Management performing dolphinarium tricks (we’d boycotted Marineland Mallorca whilst on holiday) with Firstborn as the ‘trainer’.

Does this trick make my bum look big?

Best meal of the year:

The most hotly contested category of all. It could easily have been the baked brie at the Crofters Bistro, Rosemarkie, or the scallops at the Applecross Inn or the mega-breakfast at the Hatton Locks café or the liver and bacon at the Tigh an Eilean Hotel, Shieldaig. But by a country mile, ‘hats off’ please to the Gasthaus Ubl in Vienna for keeping traditional Austrian cuisine alive and at its best. Roast pork, sauerkraut and dumplings like my Grandma used to make. Großartig!

“Il semble que la perfection soit atteinte non quand il n’y a plus rien a ajouter, mais quand il n’y a plus rien a retrancher” – Antoine de saint-Exupery.

Best sausage of the year:

Another Viennese delight – mit brot und senf, of course

Absolutely the wurst experience that we had on holiday …

Best new toy of the year:

A micro-campervan. According to the Daily Mash, “as a form of accommodation it is slightly more expensive than The Savoy, but I think it’s cool.

Priscilla at rest (at the Clootie Well)
As aficionados of the movie ‘Priscilla; Queen of the Desert’ will tell you, calling it Priscilla certainly puts the ‘camp’ into ‘campervan’

Best fresh air of the year:

As sensitive bio-indicators of atmospheric pollution, these lichens growing on a wooden bench seat next to the main road through Lochcarron attest to the freshness of its air. Unusually for Scotland the air was still on the day this picture was taken, making it the best fresh air of the year!

I’m lichen it …

Best concert of the year:

No real competition here. Bellowhead on a Saturday night at the London Palladium during the band’s farewell tour. Simply awesome.

Folk music ‘rebooted’ or as I would say,”traditional music given a kick up the a**e!”

Best offspring pose of the year:

Firstborn and The Tall Child ‘having a moment’.

I never called you a mushroom. I said you were a fun guy!

And finally …

Best roof picture of the year:

Eavesdropping from the top of Stephansdom, Vienna

… a bad case of shingles?







Quotes that made me laugh #22

This quote is one that I heard a long time ago when I first saw the movie The Third Man. It’s probably the best known quote from the film and as our recent trip to Vienna brought a lot of the Third Man sequences to mind it seems timely to post it here.

Unfortunately our arrival in Vienna was one day too late to take advantage of the Third Man ‘sewer tour’, a promenade through the tunnels that allowed the films eponymous character to move surreptitiously between the ‘controlled zones’ of post-war Vienna. It had closed for the season so we’ll just have to go back again when it’s open!

This is a still from the closing scene of the film as Anna walks away from Harry Lime’s funeral and towards Holly “I haven’t got a sensible name” Martins:

No happy ending ...
A long, slow walk to the accompaniment of the haunting refrains of Anton Karas’ zither as Anna decides that a happy ending is far too bourgeois for one of the 20th century’s most pivotal films noir …

… and this is a not too dissimilar pic taken on our recent trip to Vienna:

The Hauptallee of the Wiener Prater in autumn – another of Vienna’s fabulously long, tree-lined avenues. Unlike Anna we decided to be extremely bourgeois and left for an altogether happier ending at a favoured cafe in the Naschmarkt.

Finally, the quote. When Holly and Harry eventually meet on the Wiener Riesenrad (the Prater’s giant ferris wheel) Harry seeks to justify his black market sales of watered-down and ineffective penicillin that had led to the deaths of sick children:

…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.