Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Summer re-views: A Room With A View

Back to 1985 for this still charming treat, and perhaps the most popular Merchant-Ivory production till then, A ROOM WITH A VIEW from E.M. Forster, still delights now. Ok, its a perfect period costume drama, but its ideal for a warm Summer evening. The BFI in fact screened it in the open air, under the stars, projected on the wall of The British Museum in London a couple of summers ago (along with Hitch's BLACKMAIL, which actually used the Museum as a location for the climax back in 1929).
Here is what I said about ROOM a few years ago here:
A ROOM WITH A VIEW from 1985 - how we liked this at the time (one of my date movies in Brighton), one of their best films and the first of their E M Forster triple, followed by MAURICE (time for a re-view of that soon) in 1987 and then HOWARDS END - the definition of the much derided heritage cinema,
but they are all marvellous costume dramas with great performances, like their THE EUROPEANS (Lee Remick), THE BOSTONIANS (Vanessa Redgrave), HEAT AND DUST (Julie Christie, Greta Scacchi), QUARTET (as reviewed here, Maggie Smith label), as well as their earlier oddities like SHAKESPEARE WALLAH or SAVAGES. What a fascinating team they (director James Ivory & producer Ishmael Merchant, with scriptwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala ) were and the many stories of how they made those films and attracted all those casts, on meagre budgets ....

When Lucy Honeychurch and chaperone Charlotte Bartlett find themselves in Florence with rooms without views, fellow guests Mr Emerson and son George step in to remedy the situation. Meeting the Emersons could change Lucy's life forever but, once back in England, how will her experiences in Tuscany affect her marriage plans?

Maggie Smith and Judi Dench are perfection of course as the spinster aunt and the novelist Miss Lavish, Florence looks marvellous, the period detail looks perfect, there's wonderful Fabia Drake, Daniel Day Lewis as the prissy Cecil Vyse, Rosemary Leach, Denholm Elliot and that amusing scene where the Reverend Beebe (portly Simon Callow - I almost said Cowell !) joins George and Freddy (Julian Sands and Rupert Graves) for a naked swim as the ladies walk by .....  England and Italy both look great and the soundtrack and music and captions are ideal, as of course is Helena Bonham-Carter as Lucy Honeychurch. It all ends very satisfyingly with our couple back at their room with a view and the spinster aunt happy for them in her single bed. It all though makes one want to run off to Florence right now ...
There was another ROOM WITH A VIEW, a tv version in 2007 right, scripted by costume veteran Andrew Davies (also responsible for the great BBC 1995 PRIDE & PREJUDICE and the filleted new version of BRIDESHEAD REVISITEDsee Costume Drama label). There is no ambiguity about the Reverend Beebe (Mark Williams) in this one ("not the marrying kind" according to Forster), he chats up Italian youths and has a leer in his eye as joins the boys stripping off .... Cecil in this one is James Fox's son Laurence .... like the recent tv version of SENSE & SENSIBILITY it amuses but is not as good as the film. It did though tack on a meaningless coda showing Lucy back in Florence in the '20s, George having perished in WW1!


  1. Still my favourite Merchant/Ivory, perfect in every way and the only film so far in which Julian Sands actually 'acts'. One could easily fall in love with Italy after seeing this.

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