The Quiet American – Miramax Orientalism

The Quiet American. deserves the high rating from Rotten Tomatoes. The movie was good; it was disturbing, haunting, and difficult to watch. The movie effortlessly metonymizes Vietnam with the woman character, Phuong, who is the object of both Michael Caine’s and Brenden Fraser’s attention.

The best review is from Kamera.com in the UK. They like the film because it pushes us away from the tired “Miramax orientalism.” Excellent phrase! Nobody seems to be talking about what it means to turn Vietnam into a mistress or prostitute in that movie. That’s probably due to our “me so horny, me love you long time” consciousness. Given our current chicken-hawk climate, the film’s anti-American sentiment is important, but that doesn’t make it any less Orientalist.

Incidentally, the movie was initially shelved because of 9/11, but Caine pushed for a release so he could qualify for Oscar consideration. All the reviews, of course, focus on Caine’s performance, which was admittedly strong. It’s overstating the obvious, though, to point out that in all the Oscar buzz, the character Phuong, and the actress portraying her, are ignored. Vietnam/woman as plot device, setting, and scene for male conflict is subtly and uncritically re-enacted in all the reviews. It’s so unfortunate.

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