The Fallen Idol

The first of three collaborations between Carol Reed and Graham Greene

DVD Watch

The Fallen Idol

Criterion, $29.95

When lists of the greatest directors in film history are compiled, they invariably feature names like Akira Kurosawa, Ingmar Bergman, Jean-Luc Godard, and other bums, Carol Reed is rarely, if ever, mentioned. Though The Third Man is widely considered a classic, list-compilers and film historians often act as if it simply appeared out of the ether – just a happy accident of cinematography, location, and Ferris wheel oratory – and as though Reed were just a passive spectator to his own production. The Fallen Idol, the first of three collaborations between Reed and novelist Graham Greene, is more proof, however, that the main man responsible for The Third Man is truly one of the great directors in cinema history. This story of a love triangle between an embassy butler, his shrew of a wife, and a young secretary – and the effect it has on a young boy – is as intricately drawn a tale of propriety as ever left the pen of Henry James. No film I know of exposes so subtly the casual lies and careful omissions that constitute so much of adult interaction and the confusion they can engender in a child too young to understand their subtler meanings and motivations. The story's decorousness suits Reed's style perfectly, and his rich, deep-focus cinematography is the ideal instrument upon which the music of Greene's equally rich Queen's English can be played. The two artists were made for each other, each the other's match and equal in their chosen mediums. And – need it be said? – Criterion's restoration process, so mysterious, brings out all the depth and richness of Reed's inimitable compositions. "A Sense of Carol Reed," a short accompanying documentary, uses interviews with various colleagues of Reed's to expose the director as the ultimate collaborator, while at the same time being the ultimate auteur: an artist with a singular vision who had the good sense to know he couldn't realize it by himself.

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The Fallen Idol, Criterion, Carol Reed

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