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Mostly noir

By STEVE VINEBERG  |  May 26, 2010

BRIGHTON ROCK This Graham Greene adaptation rarely turns up, but it’s a chilling experience.

The star of the series is Graham Greene, who’s well served by all three of the remaining pictures. BRIGHTON ROCK (June 2 @ 8:10 pm; June 5 @ noon; June 6 @ 10:50 am) faithfully re-creates his unsettling 1938 novel about a 17-year-old Brighton gang leader whose world begins to fold in on him after he kills a newspaperman. With the brilliant young Richard Attenborough as the sociopath Pinkie, whose face always seems on the point of fragmenting, this is one creepy noir — though noirs seldom offer dialogue of this caliber. Hermione Baddeley plays Ida, the raucous music-hall singer who, refusing to accept the police verdict that the newspaperman died of a heart attack, plays detective to run down the truth. Fearless, unassailable Ida is the Brighton rock of the title (which also refers to a popular hard candy). This is one of Greene’s odder Catholic tales: Pinkie is haunted by a schoolboy version of Catholicism, and the improbable angel Ida sends him straight to Hell. Carol Marsh plays the naive waitress he almost takes along for the ride. The colorful supporting cast features a Dickensian caricature by Harcourt Williams as a shady lawyer who nearly falls to pieces when he sees Pinkie murder one of his own mob in cold blood. Don’t miss Brighton Rock — it rarely shows up, and it’s a memorably chilling experience.

Greene teamed with Carol Reed on three occasions, and “Rialto’s Best of British Noir” includes the first two. (The third was the genial Our Man in Havana, in 1959.) THE FALLEN IDOL (June 12 @ 3 pm; June 13 @ 1 pm), a beautifully calibrated piece of work, bears some resemblance to Joe Wright’s film of Ian McEwan’s Atonement: both are about children who tell lies that destroy (or nearly destroy) the people they love. The Fallen Idol is set in the French Embassy in London over two days during which the ambassador’s little boy, Philippe (Bobby Henrey), is left in the care of the butler, Baines (Ralph Richardson), and his wife (Sonia Dresdel), the housekeeper. In Phil’s childhood world — almost the entire picture is from his point of view — this couple represent the two poles. Baines is affectionate, indulgent, and imaginative; Mrs. Baines is joyless, severe, and narrow — and so keenly attuned to the boy’s smallest deceptions, it’s as if she could read his mind. (She’s a natural spy.) When, confined to the nursery for blurting out that he hates her, he sneaks out and finds Baines at a tea shop with his mistress (the stunning Michèle Morgan), he doesn’t know what secret he’s come across, but he promises Baines to keep it. He can’t, though — Mrs. Baines worms it out of him. When she and her husband quarrel and she falls down the embassy staircase to her death, Phil assumes that Baines has pushed her, and he lies in a valiant effort to save his hero. The Fallen Idol is a small-scale picture, but it’s complicated and complex.

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  Topics: Features , Entertainment, Entertainment, Graham Greene,  More more >
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