Following the conviction of her art dealer husband, Stephan Zelli, for theft, Marya Zelli, originally from the West Indies, moves in with her acquaintances, expatriate Brits H.J. and Lois Heidler. Marya knows that H.J. in particular has more in mind than just providing her lodging out of the goodness of his heart. Marya agrees in part because she, being a foreigner, cannot get work and would thus become destitute otherwise. She learns she is the latest in a long line of lodgers. She also learns that H.J. and Lois' marriage is not all that it appears on the surface. The Heidler's hold on Marya becomes stronger when they convince her that Stephan not only has no money but has no future in France after his release.
Bates and Smith are at their peak here as the odd British couple with designs on the perfectly French Adjani - like THE EUROPEANS, HEAT AND DUST and those other Merchant Ivory productions like MAURICE and A ROOM WITH A VIEW the drama plays out nicely against immaculate backdrops and the lead actors shine. Its the only time Bates and Maggie Smith played together (they are both in Altman's GOSFORD PARK though, but then most British thespians were...). This one nicely evokes the Jazz Age with its art deco and nightclubs, costumes and music. Like the equally interesting British production RETURN OF THE SOLDIER from the same era (1982) where we have another fantastic cast (Bates, Julie Christie, Glenda Jackson, Ann-Margret) in a period setting, review soon - we were certainly spoiled by great costume dramas with quality casts then and more or less took them for granted. This QUARTET is worth discovering now - the Merchant/Ivory team made these movies on very tight budgets but they look terrific on screen and their inspired casting always works a treat. Since then costume dramas are big business on television, but Merchant-Ivory made theirs as films and on slim budgets.
I like Spark's books like "The Girls of Slender Means", "The Takeover", "The Abbess of Crewe" (which was filmed as the delirious NASTY HABITS, which I really must re-watch and review if only for that amazing cast (Glenda Jackson, Edith Evans in her last appearance, Sandy Dennis, Geraldine Page, Melina Mercouri). MEMENTO MORI is almost as funny as Iris Murdoch's THE BELL (another great British novelist, making up a triumvirate with Spark and Ireland's Edna O'Brien). MEMENTO MORI is a pleasure, the Georges Delerue score is perfect, the acting is superb, and the story is at once quirky and poigant--anyone with elderly parents will be especially affected. (See AMOUR review below ..).
|Maggie as Hedda|
(Theatre label) but I saw Dame Maggie play Hedda twice in 1970 for director Ingmar Bergman, with those flame red sets and black-costumed cast (including Robert Stephens and Jeremy Brett and BENIDORM (tv sitcom) regular Sheila Reid). It was so mesmerising I had to go twice, as I did to the company's THE BEAU'S STRATAGEM, and also to David Storey's HOME with Richardon & Gielgud - 1970 was a great theatre year, when I was 24!. (Jill Bennett was also a terrific Hedda then - I also saw Maggie in plays like PRIVATE LIVES, LETTUCE & LOVAGE, NIGHT & DAY, THE LADY IN THE VAN). I had tickets for her Lady Bracknell in 1993 but was taken ill that evening and spent a week in hospital being treated for a bleeding ulcer!