In post-World War II Berlin, the British Susanne Mallison travels to Berlin to visit her older brother Martin Mallison, a military who married German Bettina Mallison. The naive Susanne ... See full summary »
Pinkie Brown is a small-town hoodlum whose gang runs a protection racket based at Brighton race course. When Pinkie murders a journalist called Fred Hale whom he believes is responsible for... See full summary »
Philippe, a diplomat's son and good friend of Baines the butler, is confused by the complexities and evasions of adult life. He tries to keep secrets but ends up telling them. He lies to protect his friends, even though he knows he should tell the truth. He resolves not to listen to adults' stories any more when Baines is suspected of murdering his wife and no-one will listen to Philippe's vital information. Written by
When Julie leaves the tea shop and closes the shop door, there is an Open / Closed sign hanging on the glass pane of the door. But when Baines and Phillipe leave the tea shop a minute or so later, the sign is no longer there. See more »
Good day, sir... In his office there, miss.
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Adult Mysteries Through A Child's Confused Eyes--and a Beautiful Camera
"The Fallen Idol" builds on a classic situation of English children's literature--the lonely rich kid from overseas in the big house left with hired caregivers-- to create a masterful suspense tale that deftly examines truths and half-truths, lies and white lies from the boy's confused perspective.
Based on Graham Greene's short story "The Basement Room", the film builds on the look of Hitchcock's "Rebecca", with a house as visually significant as Manderlay, plus fraught with Lillian Hellman's sophisticated view of childhood as in "These Three". Key is not just Georges Périnal's enthralling story, but the stunning direction by Carol Reed in how he uses gorgeous black and white cinematography from both a memorable interior and a London that ranges from scary night to a misleadingly bright daylight that is equally full of secrets, as seen in a new 35 MM print at NYC's Film Forum.
The beautiful production design is dominated by a gorgeous staircase in the ambassador's residence that has to rank with one of the all time movie centerpieces as in "Gone With The Wind", and is as central for the first and last third of the film as the Rear Window in another Hitchcock film. Reed has the camera go up and down those heavily symbolic stairs as a shared link from the main floors that are the busy public areas, down to the basement servant quarters then up and up to the private residential areas, with overlooking balconies and windows that are key for spying on each level. The staircase sets up several dramatic events (adding layers to the film's title), climaxing in a notable scene of the incredibly tense voyage of a child's innocent-seeming paper airplane that carries a significant clue slowly, slowly traversing that vertical no-man's/everyman's land from the top to the bottom, as we hold our breath where it will land.
Throughout the film, the complex world of adult relationships and interactions is seen through the eyes of a child (the wonderfully natural, lively, lisping Bobby Henrey - who now lives in Connecticut and did a Q & A at the Film Forum I didn't attend) so that childish activities take on ironic or double meanings of freedom or dread, between appearances and reality, from a good night story, to a game of hide and seek, to a picnic, to running away, to an idyll at the zoo that one would assume inspired Rowling for a key scene in "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone". Throughout the film, the boy constantly misunderstands what he is seeing - sometimes he sees the truth, sometimes he doesn't, sometimes he only sees part of the truth, as the adults alternate in advising him to lie or don't lie.
The young Ralph Richardson is absolutely marvelous as he switches from father substitute to hen-pecked husband (Sonia Dresdel as his wife recalls Agnes Moorhead), to relaxed lover, to efficient butler.
While this new print revival is being distributed as a forgotten masterpiece, my parents vividly remembered seeing it first run in their neighborhood Brooklyn movie theater and that it was quite popular. I presume that the same team's next work on the masterpiece "The Third Man" overshadowed this gem in film history, but also perhaps because this film doesn't end on quite the cynicism that a contemporary audience expects from their work.
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