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Quartet

Quartet(1981)

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  • Crushed Petal

    • Judie Feldman
    • 8/13/11

    "Quartet" is one of Merchant-Ivory's most underrated dramas. The film represents a turn for M-I to a tougher world. It has some searing performances. Isabelle Adjani won Best Actress and Director James Ivory was nominated for a Palme D'Or at Cannes in 1981. Maggie Smith was nominated for a BAFTA and won London's Evening Standard Award in 1982. Colorful opening shots of Montparnasse hotels to pensive music pull the viewer in: Marya (Adjani), "a crushed-petal-type", a vulnerable foreigner from the West Indies, is longing to find her place in post WWI Paris, where decadence has become de rigeur. The screenplay is based on "Postures", a 1928 novel by Jean Rhys. The film captures Rhys' dark view but adds some caf glamour. Marya is left adrift in a sea of helplessness, without money or work permit, after her husband is jailed for trying to sell a French national treasure-a sword of Napoleon's. There is an increasing sense of dread watching Marya slide into a psychological abyss, always depending on a man for her existence. Her final primal scream of her husband's name is heartbreaking. Alan Bates is convincing as Heidler, a manipulative predator of wandering women; Maggie Smith is affecting as his painter-wife. Anthony Higgins gives a compelling performance as Marya's husband, who also endures terrible hardships. Lhomme's camera soaks up Higgins' charisma with every shot. The actor was only 33 when this film was made but his Stefan is acted with maturity and grace. His Polish accent and bearing are perfect. The scene where the couple first meet is charming; his later explosive showdown with Marya is intense but controlled. The film is so haunting it had me wondering what would happen not only to Marya but to Stefan after it ended. How would he ever find another job and would he get caught up in the fascism that was beginning to thunder over the continent?

  • Crushed Petal

    • Judie Feldman
    • 8/13/11

    "Quartet" is one of Merchant-Ivory's most underrated yet noteworthy dramas. The film represents a turn for M-I to a tougher world. It has some searing performances. Isabelle Adjani won Best Actress and Director James Ivory was nominated for a Palme D'Or at Cannes in 1981. Maggie Smith was nominated for a BAFTA and won London's Evening Standard Award in 1982. Colorful opening shots of Montparnasse hotels to pensive music pull the viewer in: Marya (Adjani), "a crushed-petal-type", a vulnerable foreigner from the West Indies, is longing to find her place in post WWI Paris, where decadence has become de rigeur. The screenplay is based on "Postures", a 1928 novel by Jean Rhys. The film captures Rhys' dark view but adds some caf glamour. Marya is left adrift in a sea of helplessness, without money or work permit, after her husband is jailed for trying to sell a French national treasure-a sword of Napoleon's. There is an increasing sense of dread watching Marya slide into a psychological abyss, always depending on a man for her existence. Her final primal scream of her husband's name is heartbreaking. Alan Bates is convincing as Heidler, a manipulative predator of wandering women; Maggie Smith is affecting as his painter-wife. Anthony Higgins gives a compelling performance as Marya's husband, who also endures terrible hardships. Lhomme's camera soaks up Higgins' charisma with every shot. The actor was only 33 when this film was made but his Stefan is acted with maturity and grace. His Polish accent and bearing are perfect. The scene where the couple first meet is charming; his later explosive showdown with Marya is intense but controlled. The film is so haunting it had me wondering what would happen not only to Marya but to Stefan after it ended. How would he ever find another job and would he get caught up in the fascism that was beginning to thunder over the continent?

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