Recommended for You: Marcel Dzama on The Third Man

Loreta Lamargese

Stills from The Third Man (1949).

The Third Man (1949) follows the buckling of identities that results from living in corrupt times. Set against the Viennese reconstruction of 1948 and taking lighting cues from the German expressionism that had followed the First World War, the film offers a stylized questioning of good versus evil through the eyes of a Hollywood feigning innocence. Likewise, Marcel Dzama’s drawings and films present anachronistic worlds wherein monsters and riffle-totting dancers achieve the semblance of harmony through the elegance of staging (his David Zwirner viewing room opens this week).

What is your favorite movie?
I think my favorite movie is The Third Man. It’s such a perfect film and soundtrack.

How do you apply the idea of “favorite” here?
A film that I would put on my top 5 list, that I could watch repeatedly, and that I want to know about its origins and making.

How would you describe this movie to a close friend? It is a post-World War II film that takes place in Vienna about two friends; one is morally compromised and the other has to decide if he should betray his friend or not.

Where were you when you first watched it and how did you feel? I bought a VHS copy at a flea market in Winnipeg, Canada for $.99. I watched it in my parents basement. I believe the year was 1990.

If you were putting together a double feature, what movie would you play alongside this one and why?
I would pick Touch of Evil (1958). It’s another great performance by Orson Welles, who stars in The Third Man, but in this one he directs as well. It has one of the best opening scenes and is also about a morally compromised individual and the betrayal of a friend.