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  Directed by
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 1.78:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer ( )
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Commentary - English: Dolby Digital Stereo
  Subtitles
    English - Hearing Impaired
  Extras
  • Audio commentary
  • 2 Photo gallery

A Room With A View

Roadshow Entertainment/Roadshow Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 117 mins . PG . PAL

  Feature
Contract

This was the first of three film adaptations from novels by E.M. Forster which the Merchant Ivory team tackled.

That team was in fact made up of three key members -- producer Ismail Merchant, director James Ivory, and the missing name, German-born Oscar-winning scriptwriter, Ruth Prawer Jhablava.

It's a wonderfully successful adaptation, with the special period charm of the novel totally preserved, thanks both to the beautifully paced, almost languid direction and the splendid casting.

That casting features an effective Julian Sands as young Lucy Honeychurch's would-be lover George Emerson, and Helen Bonham Carter as Lucy, in her first-ever screen appearance.

Lucy is in Florence, on a tour with her much-older cousin (more a great-aunt) Charlotte (Maggie Smith). And in their pensione-with-a-view they meet the two Emersons, father and son.

The elder Emerson is from a class apart from the upper-middle echelon of Lucy's acquaintances. He's distinctly self-educated, perhaps from a rural, or even (shock-horror) working-class background. And he is also a fascinatingly unconventional free-thinker determined to see through society's shallow rules. And his role is played magnificently by fine British actor Denholm Elliott in one of his greatest roles.

His son George (Julian Sands) appears more conventionally-educated, judging by his accent. and could pass as coming from the same hidebound class as the Honeychurch family. But he shares his father's social freedom. He has fallen instantly in love with Lucy, and is determined to show her his love as dramatically and as urgently as possible.

But of course, impulsive behaviour just isn't condoned by either Lucy, or, more particularly, her elder aunt Charlotte. Before we can say 'unsuitable', Lucy is whisked back to England, where she is rapidly engaged to the far more suitable, and stultifyingly stilted and boring Cecil Vyse (Daniel Day-Lewis).

Will fate spring some surprises and bring Lucy and George back together again? Will Charlotte realise that her beliefs will consign Lucy to either unhappy marriage or to bitter spinsterhood? Will Lucy and George ever find themselves back in Florence, sharing a room with a view? I won't spoil the outcome by revealing all -- but even if you know exactly how it will end, it will not spoil the pleasure a whit. It's wonderful, beautiful escapism, and it's such a delight to see Helen Bonham Carter undertake, rather nervously (and quite appropriately nervously at times), her very first role.

  Video
Contract

The print may not have been totally pristine -- there are signs that this may have received some wear -- but it seems a very decent anamorphic transfer, with the hoped-for soft palette of colours and decent black-tones.

It's not exhibition-quality, but will serve all lovers of the film more than adequately. It is, of course, an anamorphic transfer, which is the very least this film deserves. I estimate it being somewhere around 1.75:1 to 1.78:1, which is its original screening ratio, not the 2.35:1 cited on the cover.

  Audio
Contract

The 5.1 Surround Sound is processed from the original stereo, and gives a warm and luscious soundscape without any artificial effects.

  Extras
Contract

The main extra feature is an Audio Commentary from Ismail Merchant, James Ivory, Director of Photography Tony Pierce-Roberts and actor Simon Callow -- Callow features in the cast as an Athletic Christian vicar of the sort which abounded in the English countryside 100 years ago.

It's partly informative, but the quartet seem more intent on just having a good time amongst themselves to be of much interest to us. It's like eavesdropping in on a party -- pretty weak stuff, really.

There is a good swag of black-and-white production stills, and a gallery of cinema lobby-cards and poster art. And that's that for extras. The American release boasts more features, but a look at overseas sites suggests that those extras aren't really missed here.

  Overall  
Contract

Definitely worth renting at the very least, but I'd plan on buying it, just for the gentle story and luscious settings, and for the auspicious debut of one of my very favourite actesses, Helen Bonham Carter. Pity about the lack of worthwhile extras.....


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      And I quote...
    "Consummate two-hanky Merchant Ivory movie, with a stunning debut from delicous debutante Helen Bonham Carter."
    - Anthony Clarke
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Pioneer DVD 655A
    • TV:
          Loewe Profil Plus 3272 68cm
    • Receiver:
          Denon AVR-3801
    • Speakers:
          Neat Acoustics PETITE
    • Centre Speaker:
          Neat Acoustics PETITE
    • Surrounds:
          Celestian (50W)
    • Subwoofer:
          B&W ASW-500
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