Saturday, September 16, 2006

THE QUIET AMERICAN


THE QUIET AMERICAN
(1958, USA, Joseph L. Mankiewicz, Graham Greene novel)
(2002, USA/Germany/Australia, Phillip Noyce, Christopher Hampton / Robert Schenkkan screenplay, Graham Greene novel)

Sooner or later, Mr. Fowler, one has to take sides. One has to remain human.

Two very strong adaptations of the Graham Greene novel. Fascinating resonances between nations and individuals, all caught in moral quandaries, political and personal. The former a rumination on the Korean conflict, the latter reaching screens as America geared up for military action in Iraq and providing a poignant counter-point to the gung-ho attitude that it could all be solved with a little well-intentioned firepower. The novelist's weary Catholicism is mostly subtextual here, though the refusal of Fowler's wife to grant him an easy divorce may subtly suggest a sort of moral solidity that stands in contrast to the character's indecision, complacency and compromise: clearly he is being challenged to decide who he is, and whether his life stands for anything. That may make the story sound moralistic in a way that it is not: both screenplays are wonderfully literate, as nuanced and ambiguous as their source material. But a sense remains that, while easy solutions may be no solution at all, neither is the vague centrelessness with which the character begins the story.

THE YEAR OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY

Videomatica has both the 1958 and 2002 versions of this film

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