Re-posting my TIFF reviews here, at shroom
’s request. With apologies for the delay; I’ve had problems with my browser.
The Quiet American
. Dir. Philip Noyce.
It’s films like this that make the Festival such a heady experience. Based on the Graham Greene novel, co-scripted by Christopher Hampton (who also wrote Dangerous Liaisons
). Cinematography by, among others, Christopher Doyle. Producers include Anthony Minghella and Sydney Pollack.
Michael Caine utterly immerses himself in character as Thomas Fowler, a British journalist in Vietnam during its last days as a French colony. Something of a jaded, cynical, “old Asia hand”, Fowler is content with his leisured existence, keeping his emotional distance from the moral and political complexities of life in Vietnam. His estranged wife is several thousand miles distant in the Old Country, and Phuong, a delightful and beautiful young woman, shares his life and bed.
Things begin to change when he and Phuong meet Alden Pyle (Brendan Fraser), a newly arrived, seemingly naive and idealistic, American aid worker. At the same time, Fowler comes under pressure to file more substantive pieces or be recalled home. With his stay in Vietnam, his love-life, and his job all at risk, Fowler finds his stance of indifference increasingly difficult to maintain.
With its Asian setting, late/post-colonial timeframe, journalist protagonist, and intersecting themes of love and moral/political responsibility, The Quiet American
has echoes of earlier films, notably The Year of Living Dangerously
, and The Killing Fields
Good as those two films were (and I loved
Weir and Russell Boyd’s work in Year...
), A Quiet American
has the additional benefits of superior source material, and a career-topping performance by Caine. In Thomas Fowler, Caine finds what may be the richest role of his career, as a flawed soul reluctantly facing the shadows, conflicts, and mysteries of the human heart.
Beautiful cinematography, and excellent production design. Sitting in a movie theatre in Toronto, one is irresistibly drawn into the atmosphere of this piece of Asia: sultry, sensuous, beguiling, and quietly haunting.
p.s.: Has anyone seen The Honorary Consul
, an earlier Greene-Hampton-Caine effort? Or the 1958 production of The Quiet American
? If so, I’d be interested in your opinions of them.