The director half of Merchant-Ivory films, Ismail Merchant being the producer half (though they really should be called Merchant-Ivory-Jhabvala), made lovely (if sometimes boring) period pieces for years.
Quartet (1981) -- The Jean Rhys novel that this was based on took a little while to warm up to since the characters were not exactly likeable or smart. But, once you'd finished reading it, you felt like you got something out of it anyway. That's not really the case with the movie version, which often just feels like we're watching people that you'd hate in real life--with nothing much else to make us interested.
The Bostonians (1984) -- The movie before breaking big with A Room with a View, this one is a little more interesting in terms of story and character, but suffers some of the same problems, including being over-long and repetitive. A 90 minute version would be pretty good. Christopher Reeve does a good job as the Mississippi lawyer. The other standout is Linda Hunt as Dr. Prance.
A Room With a View (1986) -- Proof that an E.M. Forster adaptation, lavish costumes and sets, witty lines, and super-talented actors doesn't necessarily make a good movie (though, obviously, many people thought it did). Truth is, the main "conflict" of this movie is explored in the first twenty minutes or so and then it goes on reprising that conflict for another hundred minutes, with characters that aren't extremely likeable anyway. The movie has its moments and it's nice to look at, but that's about it.
Howard's End (1992) -- Merchant and Ivory were working with a better E.M. Forster book this time, and the movie is much better for it as well. All the prettiness and good acting from A Room with a View (with the addition of Anthony Hopkins this time around) work in its favor, and this time the film has more of a point than just to look fancy.
The Remains of the Day (1993) -- A perfect movie, one that I've described as liking "more than I should." Anthony Hopkins rules the school yet again, as do screenwriters Harold Pinter (my hero) and Ruth Prawer Jhabvala. And of course Merchant-Ivory themselves. One of the saddest movies ever, without being anything that you'd normally call "sad."
Copyright (c) Jan 2002 - Feb 2008 by Rusty Likes Movies