Jump to content
 
Search In
  • More options...
Find results that contain...
Find results in...

The films of Merchant-Ivory


HollywoodGolightly
 Share

Recommended Posts

I've recently had a chance to catch up with the wonderful Merchant-Ivory film Howards End, on a recently released Criterion blu-ray - and I'm so glad I did. The movie has never looked so beautiful since it was first released to theaters, and it remains arguably the crowning achievement of James Ivory and Ismail Merchant.

 

The movie is rich in layers and characterization in a way that is becoming increasingly rare in movies - and it does benefit from the wonderful performances by Emma Thompson, Anthony Hopkins, Vanessa Redgrave and Helena Bonham Carter. There are great psychological nuances beneath all of the major characters, and yet at the same time they can also be taken as being symbolic of certain segments of British society in the early 20th century.

 

20608d0.jpg

 

I highly recommend this new edition of Howards End to anyone, whether or not they are fans of Merchant-Ivory films or E.M. Foster in particular, and I don't believe anyone who enjoys sophisticated filmmaking could possibly be disappointed. (The movie also benefits from an $8 million budget, low by the standards of mainstream Hollywood at that time, but astronomical for arthouse movies).

 

Incidentally, the bonus features on the blu-ray also got me excited about revisiting many other Merchant Ivory films that I have not seen in a long time, starting with A Room with a View but also quite possibly other earlier gems like The Europeans, Maurice, The Bostonians and Heat and Dust.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

> {quote:title=redriver wrote:}{quote}

> It's funny you say that. I also feel this movie has a little something on their others. I haven't seen all their films. But this is the best I know of.

 

I hope I'll have time to catch as many as possible during the next few months, because I think I'm beginning to appreciate their type of filmmaking in a way that perhaps I couldn't have when I was younger. :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 months later...

One of the best Merchant-Ivory films, A Room With a View, is part of tonight's primetime lineup on TCM:

 

9s8d51.jpg

 

*A Room With a View* (1985) 1:15am ET

An Englishwoman visiting Florence is torn between her straitlaced fiance and a young Bohemian.

Cast: Maggie Smith, Helena Bonham Carter, Denholm Elliott, Julian Sands Dir: James Ivory C-117 mins, TV-MA

Link to comment
Share on other sites

> {quote:title=JarrodMcDonald wrote:}{quote}

> I will definitely be watching this film tonight. My favorite Merchant Ivory film is MR. & MRS. BRIDGE.

 

I hope you'll enjoy it - I hope everyone who watches and/or records this will enjoy it. It's among the very best of contemporary cinema, imho. Sure, it's not everyone's cup of tea, but then again, what is? ;)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I read ROOM WITH A VIEW about ten years ago as part of a book club I belonged to at a local library. I love E.M. Forster...I own copies of 'Howards End,' 'A Passage to India' and 'Maurice.' And I've seen the films for those titles...but interestingly, I have never seen the film for 'Room.' Glad TCM aired it. I recorded it last night, but I think I will save it for Saturday when I can devote my full attention to it. I will post about it after I see it and take some notes.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hey, you're lucky if you've read all of those books.

 

Of the ones you mentioned, the only movies I have seen recently were Howards End and A Passage to India - luckily both are available on blu-ray now - and enjoyed both of them very very much.

 

I also watched Howards End and The Remains of the Day when they were first shown in American theaters, back in the day.

 

A Room with a View I've not seen in a long time, but I also want to watch it again soon.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Maurice is a great film, I like it very much...the book is excellent and has an interesting publication history, since Forster did not allow it printed during his lifetime.

 

Remains of the Day and Mr. & Mrs. Bridge are obviously not taken from Forster. Another non-Forster Merchant Ivory film I like a lot is A SOLDIER'S DAUGHTER NEVER CRIES. I can't explain it, but it's just a really intriguing independent film with Barbara Hershey, Kris Kristofferson and Leelee Sobieski, a very unique and likeable cast.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I remember watching A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries on video, shortly after its release, but I don't remember very much about the movie except that there were some really good performances.

 

Actually, I'd probably like to watch that one again, as well, and of course Mr. and Mrs. Bridge, which I've not seen since it was new in theaters.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

When discussing the impact of the Merchant Ivory canon, we have to look at how they influenced other filmmakers and audiences.

 

If not for their success in bringing the art house film to the multiplex, we would not have had Scorsese attempting THE AGE OF INNOCENCE (which was good, but not as great as it could've been). And we would not have had the Weinsteins, of Miramax fame, produce THE WINGS OF THE DOVE, borrowing British staple Helena Bonham Carter.

 

Next, there were A-listers like Nick Nolte wanting to get in on the action (JEFFERSON IN PARIS); and Oscar winners like Anjelica Huston taking a turn (THE GOLDEN BOWL).

 

Plus, you could say that through these films, there were now more opportunities for women over 40 in Hollywood (Judi Dench, Joanne Woodward, Vanessa Redgrave, Emma Thompson, Barbara Hershey, etc.).

 

Lastly (but not least), I think their films helped rejuvenate interest in classic literature and made it fashionable for studios to return to doing film adaptations. Merchant Ivory also helped show how a respectable and beautifully mounted film could be made on a relatively modest budget. They gave us extravagance without being outrageously extravagant.

 

This filmmaking couple really altered the filmmaking landscape when you think about it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks. I think a side effect of it is that they sort of paved the way for modern British actors to gain widespread acceptance in America, from Daniel Day Lewis and Hugh Grant to Helena Bonham to Emma Thompson and Judi Dench. Most of those people would've remained successes in their native England and perhaps other parts of Europe, but they gained the U.S. and Canadian markets through these Merchant Ivory productions.

 

It also showed that we didn't need yet another Shakespearean adaptation to have an intelligent, literate film with good production values and mass market appeal. I am sure publishing companies that began to reprint Forster and Henry James made a mint.

 

I would say that Oscar winning director Jane Campion (THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY) was definitely influenced by these guys, too.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

_*MERCHANT IVORY FILMOGRAPHY*_

 

(Not including short films, documentaries or made-for-television projects)

 

THE HOUSEHOLDER (1963)

SHAKESPEARE WALLAH (1965)

THE GURU (1969)

BOMBAY TALKIE (1970)

SAVAGES (1973)

AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A PRINCES (1975)

THE WILD PARTY (1975)

HULLABALOO OVER GEORGIE AND BONNIE'S PICTURES (1976)

ROSELAND (1977)

THE EUROPEANS (1979)

JANE AUSTEN IN MANHATTAN (1980)

QUARTET (1981)

HEAT AND DUST (1983)

THE BOSTONIANS (1984)

A ROOM WITH A VIEW (1985)

MAURICE (1987)

SLAVES OF NEW YORK (1989)

MR. AND MRS. BRIDGE (1990)

HOWARDS END (1991)

THE REMAINS OF THE DAY (1993)

JEFFERSON IN PARIS (1995)

SURVIVING PICASSO (1996)

A SOLDIER'S DAUGHTER NEVER CRIES (1998)

THE GOLDEN BOWL (2001)

LE DIVORCE (2003)

THE WHITE COUNTESS (2005)

THE CITY OF YOUR FINAL DESTINATION (2008)...after Merchant's death

 

The last project in this filmography, THE CITY OF YOUR FINAL DESTINATION, had an early preview in New York in 2007 but it was not distributed. It was later screened at special events in Rome and Tokyo in 2009.

 

It is now scheduled for its release in the U.S. next month, on March 30, 2010. The film's distribution has been hampered by an on-going court battle between the Merchant Ivory company and star Anthony Hopkins whose salary was renegotiated.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Author RUTH PRAWER JHABVALA is the third member of the Merchant Ivory production team.

 

From what is written about her on wikipedia:

 

In 1963, Jhabvala was approached by James Ivory and Ismail Merchant to write a screenplay of her 1960 novel The Householder. This began a collaboration that produced over 20 films.

 

The next Merchant-Ivory project Shakespeare Wallah (1965), was a critical success, and it was followed by a number of other films, including an adaptation of Jhabvala's novel 'Heat and Dust' (1983); A Room with a View (1985), for which she won her first Oscar; Mr. and Mrs. Bridge (1990); Howards End (1992), her second Oscar win; and The Remains of the Day (1993), for which she was nominated for a third Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay.

 

Her stories are often less comedies of manners than profound struggles over the souls of young women.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

> {quote:title=JarrodMcDonald wrote:}{quote}

> Thanks. I think a side effect of it is that they sort of paved the way for modern British actors to gain widespread acceptance in America, from Daniel Day Lewis and Hugh Grant to Helena Bonham to Emma Thompson and Judi Dench. Most of those people would've remained successes in their native England and perhaps other parts of Europe, but they gained the U.S. and Canadian markets through these Merchant Ivory productions.

>

> It also showed that we didn't need yet another Shakespearean adaptation to have an intelligent, literate film with good production values and mass market appeal. I am sure publishing companies that began to reprint Forster and Henry James made a mint.

 

Excellent points, Jarrod. And I do hope that The City of Your Final Destination will eventually be released in the U.S.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think it's great that we have this thread up, and what is possibly the final Merchant Ivory film about to be released. That's exciting.

 

Perhaps some people will get the chance to see it when it first opens in limited release. I just hope it doesn't take long for it to get to DVD. Not everyone lives in a large city where they can get to an art house that might be playing it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

> {quote:title=JarrodMcDonald wrote:}{quote}

> Perhaps some people will get the chance to see it when it first opens in limited release. I just hope it doesn't take long for it to get to DVD. Not everyone lives in a large city where they can get to an art house that might be playing it.

 

I do hope I'll get to watch it when it's in theaters! If not, there's always blu-ray...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It sounds like a very interesting project, with Ivory directing Hopkins and others from a Jhabvala script.

 

Since Ivory and Jhabvala are both in their early 80s now and Merchant is no longer around, I think this might be the last major film for them.

 

They've handed us a handsome filmography, selections to cherish for a long time to come.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

© 2022 Turner Classic Movies Inc. All Rights Reserved Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Cookie Settings
×
×
  • Create New...