Critically acclaimed, but not faring well at the box-office, “THE QUIET AMERICAN” gets a new lease on life with its release on dvd from BUENA VISTA.
Director Philip Noyce’s craftsmanship is all over the place, but for various reasons, as skilled as he is, the film never builds the tension it truly needs. Instead, it reveals itself at a slow, deliberate pace, trying to be continuously reflective.
Based upon Graham Green’s novel, “THE QUIET AMERICAN” it tells the story of Thomas Fowler, a British journalist who has gotten used to the equivalent of “phoning in” his stories, passing his time between booze and the mistress he’s taken up with. However, when his office recalls him back to London, he begins to prioritize his relationship, taking on huge risks to venture towards the increasingly hostile French/Vietnamese fronts in the hopes of reporting newsworthy information which will make his remaining there invaluable! When he meets Alden, a young medical worker, doing volunteer work, a sense of optimism about his altruistic actions, is quickly diminished when Fowler finds Alden’s taken a genuine interest in his girlfriend, and that he’s a CIA agent.
As with the novel, this faithful adaptation offers a lot of provocative subtext, but to sit through a decidedly depressing film, and one without much of an emotional payoff, is certain to annoy some audiences.
On the positive side, this marks one of Michael Caine’s greatest performances. Casting aside the “POSEIDON ADVENTURE” sequel and other crap he’s made, his performance here, as in “CIDER HOUSE RULES” demonstrates how wonderful an actor he is! He’s a joy to watch in an otherwise “joyless” film.
BUENA VISTA has preserved the film’s correct 2.35:1 aspect ratio, and it looks terrific! Filmed in Viet-Nam, the varying locations are perfectly represented here, and the detail is exquisite throughout! Colors are perfect, though intentionally subdued at times. Contrast is excellent, offering deep blacks and grays. Fleshtones appear natural.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is effective, without being aggressive. Noyce has always shown interest in creative soundmixes, and “THE QUITE AMERICAN” offers a full range of surround/directional effects, greatly enhancing the film’s atmosphere. While there’s a great deal of separation in the front soundstage, most rear effects are reserved for key sequences.
BUENA VISTA has included some notable extras here.
The commentary with Director Philip Noyce is fairly interesting, although not nearly as captivating as his commentary for “RABBIT-PROOF FENCE”.
“ANATOMY OF A SCENE” is a wonderfully engaging look at the filmmaking process, and it’s highly recommended.