Welcome to The Wright Stuff, our weekly column following the career of Raptors point guard Delon Wright. Since we can’t influence his training or anything on the court, we’ll recommend films that reflect his past week and hopefully inspire a leap forward. It’ll be part film breakdown, part essay, and part whatever loose piece of wisdom we can shake from the experience.
The regular season is over, all 82 games for all 30 teams, the whole affair is now officially in the record books. There, we have it now. And yet, despite a number one seed for the Raptors, and a career season for Delon Wright, there’s an unsettling note of unease in the air. We know something is a bit off.
Because now the playoffs begin, of course.
The last few games for the Raptors, a tidy 3-1 week that ended with a surprisingly physical display on Wednesday night in Miami, haven’t met that much. They’d already clinched first place the week before, and couldn’t real affect who they’d play in the first round. That the Wizards happened to slide into eighth was just a thing that happened to them — a spot of misfortune perhaps, but also something that can be faced head-on and defeated.
It’s worth noting that Delon Wright wasn’t around for the 2015 series against Washington. Doesn’t know what it felt like to face down the weird wave of emotion that swept through the city (or the force of the John Wall-Marcin Gortat pick-and-roll). Hell, he doesn’t even know what it was like to play against Wall this year. We keep framing the discussion that way though — either it’s all new, or it’s all old, and somehow, despite everything else going for the Raptors, it feels like a problem.
The Third Man is a perfect film. That’s just the truth of it. Every component of it — setting, music, acting, cinematography, editing, writing, and more — comes together in, for lack of a better phrase, a perfect way. It’s my favourite film of all time because of this, and because its story (or the effect of its story) is impossible to distil to a single emotion. This, despite being such a singular piece of art.
Let’s make the attempt anyway: Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten) is summoned to Vienna, Austria after World War II for a job. His old friend Harry Lime wants to get him in on a bit of business he’s doing over there. The jaunty zither score suggests something fun, an adventure even, but the film’s opening montage — complete with equally jaunty narration and the image of a dead body face down in a river — suggests otherwise. So far so good except upon his arrival, Holly learns his friend Harry is dead, and a swirl of mysterious people (friends? enemies?), including the beguiling Anna (Alida Valli), are his only source for answers. Well, them, and the law.
This is post-war Vienna, and the city has been divided into four zones. Unsurprisingly, this does not breed an air of trust amongst the citizenry. In the “friendly” English zone, Major Calloway (Trevor Howard) has reason to believe Lime’s death was not an accident. In fact, as gradually unfolds in the movie, he, along with Holly, discover that Lime is not dead at all. That Orson Welles, perhaps the cinema’s most well-known raconteur, has been cast in the role, is testament enough to that. This is a spoiler, sure, but it does not lesson The Third Man’s effect — or its famous reveal, when Harry appears, very much alive and up to no good — one iota.
So then what is The Third Man? Well, maybe it sounds like a thriller, what with all of these shady characters and intrigue. A few people do get killed — though only one, significantly, on-screen. There’s romance too, in a sense, as it is clear Holly is in love with Anna, even though she wishes to remain loyal to Harry. And there’s a layer of politics to this too, a story of law and order, and world affairs, that acts as a fulcrum between the small people in the frame, and the larger events shaping their time and place. You’ll find yourself chuckling at some of the goings-on, and gripping your seat’s armrest. Afterwards, you may even be humming a tune...
I could go on. The conclusion of the film reveals itself to be just as multi-layered, suffused with sadness, regret, and failure — even though the final outcome is, technically speaking, a positive one. Holly gets tossed into this world, like us, and then has to make heads or tails of it fast lest he be spit out the other end in disgrace. He manages to play his part and do the right thing, but that only sets him up for a different kind of letdown. What has Holly really gained?
Yikes, here I am writing about unease and failure already, and the playoffs are still two days away. That’s just what it feels like to be a Raptors fan sometimes. Delon Wright didn’t ask for these feelings, the nervousness and anxiety, to be projected onto him — and yet here we are anyway. If only there was some way to move forward with a clear head.
That’s how things go in The Third Man too. I mean, yes, the scale and stakes are much larger — we’re talking about the toll of post-war living, real life and death matters, after all — but that sense of constant unease reigns supreme. It’s a mood. And despite the fact the good guys already won the war, and the bad guy gets it in the end, it doesn’t feel like winning. Not exactly.
Where we’re left is with Holly Martins in a graveyard in Vienna. The woman he has a crush on is strolling past him, ignoring his watchful presence. His old friend is now dead for real. And everything he’s been chasing — be it a job, or adventure, or love — remains out of reach. Maybe the next time he’ll figure it out. Maybe he’ll learn from these lessons, return home, and build himself something better, or more stable, the next time.
Maybe Holly will do that. Or maybe not. Sorry, Delon, that’s the best any of us can do.