At their core, thrillers are about the unraveling of layers of deceit. What makes The Fallen Idol (newly out today on DVD) so extraordinary is that it compounds that classic thriller arc by telling its story through the eyes of an 8-year-old for whom adult deceit is an utter mystery.
Phillipe is the precocious son of the French ambassador to England. His parents are traveling, so Phil is the charge of his pal Baines, the embassy butler, and his harsh, awful wife. There’s a playfully conspiratorial relationship between the boy and the man, with Baines secretly letting the boy get away with all sorts of harmless shenanigans. But that relationship takes on a macabre cast when tragedy befalls Mrs. Baines.
What happens when you first discover that grown-ups lie to each other — and, even worse, lie to you and ask you to lie for them?
Idol, from the writing-directing team of Graham Greene and Carol Reed (The Third Man), brilliantly parses those questions by crossbreeding a beautifully crafted thriller and a wise, tenderhearted coming-of-age tale.
“>BUY The Fallen Idol (a new Criterion Collection DVD transfer; 1948, black & white, 95 minutes)
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