Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|The Quiet American|
Actors: Audie Murphy, Michael Redgrave, Claude Dauphin, Giorgia Moll, Bruce Cabot
Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Genres: Action & Adventure, Drama, Mystery & Suspense, Military & War
A love triangle brews amidst a growing political tempest in this "brilliantly intellectual" (Los Angeles Times) film in which nothing is quite as it seems. Adapted from the acclaimed novel by Graham Greene, Academy Aw... more »
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Worth seeing only as a time-capsule, not as a film
James Luckard | Los Angeles, CA | 04/24/2005
(2 out of 5 stars)
"This 1958 film of Graham Greene's novel is interesting today mostly as an historical artifact. It is not a particularly outstanding example of the art of cinema, just a dated melodrama in which the location exteriors in Saigon lead to interior dialogue scenes that are stagy and leaden and obviously take place on unconvincing studio sets. It is admittedly fascinating to see some of the exact same Saigon locations that were used in the 2002 film, and Michael Redgrave does bring a weight and soul to the role of Fowler.
Sadly, however, the film brutalizes his character. Where Greene's novel was about a world-weary Brit, confronted with a blindly idealistic American willing to sacrifice innocent lives in the name of his goals, the film inverts everything. Pyle is a virtual saint and Fowler merely the gullible old man who plays a part in Pyle's downfall not out of a desire to protect the innocent, but simply to rid himself of a romantic rival. It is not difficult to see why Graham Greene was incensed by the film and disowned it.
Fascinatingly, director/screenwriter Joe Mankiewicz manages to make this total change largely by the addition of one scene at the end. His film basically follows Greene's novel, up until [SPOILER WARNING!] an atrocious final scene in which we learn that Fowler has been hoodwinked all along by the Communists, and has destroyed a noble American who was genuinely bringing freedom and hope to Indochina. A prescient warning about America's doomed involvement in Vietnam becomes a piece of jingoistic propaganda to support the war.
The 2002 film, in comparison, is amazingly faithful to the novel. I don't always hold that as the measure of a film's success, but with a master storyteller like Greene, why mess with perfection. Do not choose this film if you want accomplished filmmaking, or an accurate interpretation of Graham Greene's intentions, for that pick up Phillip Noyce's 2002 film. Watch this only afterwards, to see how a few small changes can undermine an entire narrative.
Romantic Triangle Symbolizing Colonialism
Acute Observer | Jersey Shore USA | 08/30/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This film was based on the novel of Graham Greene set in 1953 French Indo-China (now Vietnam). It starts on Tet, the Chinese New Year and shows the traditional celebration. Then we see a dead body by the bank of the river. The people flee before the police arrive! The police bring in the English journalist for questioning; he is the prime suspect. The answers start to paint the picture of this quiet American. He represented the "Friends of Free Asia", a charity that tried to do good in French Vietnam. Fowler (symbolic name), the jaded cynical reporter, contrasts to the young fresh Pyle. Phuong represents the Vietnamese people, wise in years but seemingly young. Pyle acts surprised by the life of the dancing escorts, as if there were nothing like this in Texas or New York, or the college towns of America.
The American reporter Granger criticizes the French military, directed from Paris and based on 19th century plans. (How will this change in the 1960s?) Pyle travels to see Fowler, to bring him a message. Fowler acts cranky and bitchy, suggesting some personal problem which can't be mentioned. The romantic triangle symbolizes the Old World - New World conflict over the colony of Vietnam. Who is to become the colonial power?
James Michener's "Sayonara" tells of American policy regarding marriage. Could Pyle get permission to marry someone with the background of Phuong? Or could this be a ruse to recruit Phuong and build a network of informers? Pyle is importing plastics to create a new industry in Vietnam. Where would the dollars come from, the import regulations, the machinery, etc.?
Action begins on the trip back from the Cao Dai festival. Pyle's car is sabotaged, Fowler's car runs out of gas. They take refuge in a fort, and begin a philosophical discussion on global politics. They escape before the fort is destroyed. Pyle saves Fowler's life when hiding in the swamp (symbolizing American savoir-faire and the involvement in WW II). Fowler's wife will not grant a divorce, but Fowler lies about this! Dominguez brings a secret story to Fowler, about containers of "Diolactin", that connect back to General The and Pyle. Hints are given to Fowler to allow him to connect the dots. But the truth is found out about the letter, and Fowler is rebuked by Pyle. Fowler sees the bicycle bombs go off, and Heng provides more facts. (Can't Fowler do any investigating on his own?) After the bombing at the Continental Hotel, Fowler spouts the words that were programmed into him. Fowler's jealousy blinds him to his being manipulated, and he invites Pyle to his apartment. Pyle tells how a Vietnamese in America will become the next Vietnamese leader! When Fowler learns that Pyle will take Phuong away, he signals the Communists. Pyle will not see another dawn. Symbolically, Fowler reads a passage on jealousy.
Inspector Vigot catches Fowler in a lie about when he last saw Pyle, a sign of his guilty knowledge. Fowler is left alone as Phuong leaves him. A gossip columnist will use this in a story! Fowler loses all at the end, its too late for him, The film doesn't explain the reason for the death of Pyle. To cause an American protest? Does the Vietnamese Manufacturing Association want to eliminate foreign competition? The ending is very talkative, but never explains why Pyle was made a target for assassination. If Phuong keeps drinking those milk shakes, she will have to get new clothes. Read the novel for the true ending.
[Why is a "quiet American" remarkable? The free speaking without oppression is due to the First and Second Amendment to the Bill of Rights. Are they still operational?]
Very good, but with a Hollywood ending that ruins it!
Jesse Nelson | Tucson, AZ USA | 12/15/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"The first two-thirds of this film is excellent. Then, Hollywood has to simplify and dummy down the end. Rent the 1950's version of this, and also read the book. Here's what made those two infinitely more fascinating...
1. Ambiguity! You are never sure if the American was working with the enemy (or who the enemy is, for that matter), or if our main British character wanted to believe he was, was duped like a pawn into believing he was, to get the American killed out of a sense of revenge. This new version destroys that!
2. Our burned-out British journalist DOES NOT get the girl in the end. Hollywood sucks!
Again, the first two-thirds are really good. You just need to tack on the ending of the 1950's version. Not that the 1950's version wasn't without its flaws (the female lead was as far from Vietnamese looking as you can get... try a European with black hair). Combine those two movies, you really would have a movie that's faithful to a phenomenal book."
Really was filmed on location!
J. McKniff | Sarasota, Florida | 10/17/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Yes, the ending was made corny in this version, but the on location scenes at Cao Dai Temple and Continental Palace are wonderful! I was in Viet Nam in the 60s, long before home video, and so seeing this, filmed in some on my favorite places, is worth the cooked up non GG patter near he end.
I just saw this on French TV and loved it. Will get the DVD now."