Han Solo’s last second change in expression, before he is engulfed in carbonite smoke, turns this scene from a portrait of stoic love to a tragic one and imbues it with that much more power. As Han throws back his head in presumed agony, breaking his love-locked eyes away from Leia’s, he becomes the exclamation point on the sentence that is the scene. Anna’s contemptuous glare serves a similar purpose, turning this scene from one about systematic bureaucratic disempowerment into one about constant refusal to be disempowered. Without this very shot, this scene, and indeed this film, would take on a very different timbre.
In a film about the secrets, lies, and dishonesty in the world, this moment of honest and unmistakable distaste is a startlinh exception. Comparing Anna’s expression to the proper and unrevealing face of Doctor Winkel or the used-car-salesman smirk of Baron Kurtz, one cannot help but see Anna as a hero if only for her defiance of the lies in this black market city. The honest hatred she displays toward this British occupier seems to be a semi-political statement, saying I’m fed up with secrets.
San Francisco, another city heavily represented in film noir, is known for its particular brand of sourdough bread, so unusual because the yeasts that produce its particular flavor only live in the San Francisco bay area. Any sourdough starter in san francisco left out in the open air will capture these wild yeasts and imbue upon its bread that city’s particular flavor. Vienna, it seems, is a city not unlike San Francisco, but what is floating in the air is not that special blend of sourdough yeasts. It seems as if any flour and water left out in the vienna air would, within a few days, have captured some of the secrets and lies that float so heavily through the air of the city.
Through our look at this frame, it has been nearly impossible for me to avoid the word “contempt” and so I’ll leave today’s frame with a trailer to Jean Luc Godard’s film by that same name. Like this moment, Contempt (Le Mépris) focuses on the breaking point, and Brigitte Bardot wears this expression so often to make this comparison unavoidable. The trailer:
Over the absolute length of one year — two times per week — Still Dots will grab a frame every 62 seconds of Carol Reed’s The Third Man. This project will run until December 2012, when we finish at second 6324. For a complete archive of the project, click here. For an introduction to the project, click here.