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Quiet American (the)

An American in Vietnam is shaken when a compatriot, who seems involved in terrorism, arrives and falls for -- then moves in on -- his Asian girlfriend. "I wish there was someone to whom I could say I was sorry," says Michael Redgrave's melancholy expatriate, from cynicism, guilt, and yearning for redemption at the end of this 1958 movie, adapted from Graham Greene's novel and directed by Joseph Mankiewicz.

Redgrave is a world-weary foreign correspondent in 1950s' Saigon, devoted to his Vietnamese mistress Phuong, "Phoenix," played by Giorgia Moll. (Non-Asian casting of Asian characters, as with Yul Brynner in "The King and I", was typical of the time.) Audie Murphy is the eponymous American, a liberal idealist who wants to promote "a third way" between French colonialism and communist insurgency, and ends up falling in love with Phuong.

The political dimension to the movie is devastatingly pertinent, as Redgrave and Murphy prophetically rehearse the debate about "the domino effect" in southeast Asia. But the spiritual dimension is more pertinent still, as Redgrave glimpses his own need for an elusive someone beyond the vanities of political settlement and romantic anguish. The absurdities and ironies of his own desolation yield up this question, a little like the "sense of humour" that Greene himself said allowed him to believe in God.

Redgrave's performance is outstanding, Robert Krasker's monochrome cinematography is a thing of wonder, and Mankiewicz's direction is superb. Does a newer version, scripted by Christopher Hampton, with Michael Caine and Brendan Fraser in the lead roles, match this? No comment.
Director(s): Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Writer(s): Graham Greene, based on his novel
Cast: Audie Murphy, Claude Dauphin, Michael Redgrave, Giorgia Moll
Release Date: 1958   
Keyword: American correspondents in Vietnam; 1958;
Target Age: 15+   Category: war and peace
Documentary: no
Language: English   Reviewer's Name: Micah
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