From Goldcrest Films International
Directed by James Ivory
Helena Bonham Carter
This is the film that started my love affair with English period movies. I hadn't really taken to them before although sporadically I liked one here and there. Here a shift came about for me and I have loved those lavish period pieces ever since.
It probably should be stated with equal fervor that director James Ivory also went up on a pedestal with this outing and I came to appreciate and love his films that followed: Maurice (1987), Slaves of New York (1989), Mr. and Mrs. Bridge (1990), Howard's End (1992), The Remains of the Day (1993), Jefferson in Paris (1995), Surviving Picasso (1996), The Golden Bowl (2000), Le Divorce (2003) and The White Countess (2005). Not all were English movies nor did all take place there. They were not all winners; some were brilliant but all have a special place in my memory. American-born Ivory and the late Indian producer Ismael Merchant (also life partners) and German writer Ruth Prawer Jhabvala provided a beautiful and consistent product which provided international recognition for some great works.
A Room with a View was written in the early 1900s by e. m. forster and reading it and a couple of his other works was standard issue in my English Lit class. It is because of this teenage reading that lured me to seeing the film version and a new favorite category was born... English period... just about any period as long as there are those clothes and hairstyles and lifestyles and manners and classes in full display.
Forster, while English, loved Italy and it is only natural he would include it in a couple of his novels. The title refers to the room where Lucy Honeychurch, a young English girl, and her older cousin-chaperone are staying in Florence. Though engaged to a stuffy fellow back home, Lucy enjoys a brief flirtation with another traveler, who also happens to be English and who actually lives not all that far from Lucy.
He is George and he is mad about Lucy. She knows it but is slow on the uptake with her own emotions. By the time she finally figures out who and what she wants, we are treated to some delicious words and phrases, gorgeous countryside locations in England and Italy, sumptious sets, those clothes and all the look that people of the early 20th century exhibited.
Forster's most light-hearted story concerns a change in England gathering momentum at that time where the older stodgy class system was chipping away to freer thinking. Lucy represents the former and George the latter. I always thought George's mirth and merriment and his ability to express love so well and so easily was at the core of why I was drawn to this film.
I think it helped that I didn't know much, if anything, about Helena Bonham Carter, Julian Sands, Simon Callow, Judi Dench, Rupert Graves or even Daniel Day-Lewis in 1985. A Room with a View brought all of those talented people into my consciousness. Their acting is so on the mark here. I did already know the work of Maggie Smith and Denholm Elliott, both of whom garnered Oscar nominations.
There is a wonderfully comic scene of butt-naked Sands, Graves and Cowell playing and cutting-up (boys will be boys, after all) at the local pond and running into the veddy proper family taking a woodsy stroll.
The music is stunning. There is a smattering of opera, which I thought was done perfectly; of particular delight is Richard Robbins' theme that runs throughout and pops up at just the right times. When the music swelled, so did my sense of why I love movies. I guess I could add that I love movies where characters travel, too. There have been some great plots hatched as characters learn and travel and meet locals.
Tony Pierce-Roberts' intimate photography transports us beautifully back to those days and times and places. I felt as if I were there.
I expect this is the most Oscar-winning film that I have included in my favorites so far. Ruth Prawer Jhabvala won for best adapated screenplay, Jenny Bevan won for best costume design and Brian Ackland-Snow copped his for best art direction. In addition to Elliott and Smith, nominations were also nabbed in the categories of cinematography, directing and best picture.
A Room with a View is simply a lovely film at every level. Have a glimpse and enjoy a little opera, too:
NEXT POSTING: Dame Julie