Necropolis Then

13 Aug 2013: The Quiet American (DVD, 2002, Phillip Noyce)

Because it was produced just before 9/11/2001 (apparently its first test screening was the night before), this might be the last narrative film made under the auspices of Hollywood for the next few decades that actually rejects American foreign policy and interventionism as morally wrong, even to the point of justifying the murder of an American official sanctioned to carry out crimes against humanity. Christopher Doyle’s cinematography is superb as usual (head-on one-shots, wide-lens tracking shots at an angle to the action, subtle shutter-speed shifts during the central atrocity of the film, a CIA-backed false flag bombing of a public square), only compromised slightly by some editing decisions that disrupt his long takes for unnecessary visual redirections. All of the actors – not just the big names Caine, who’s expected to deliver, and Fraser, who maybe isn’t, but does – but especially the Vietnamese performers (whose names no one will be adding to Western cinema-buff trivia-games) make their often-metaphorical roles (like Memoirs of a Geisha – the novel at least – the woman from the East serves to represent the historical state of her entire country) into real people.

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