IMDb > Quartet (1981)
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Quartet (1981) More at IMDbPro »

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Jean Rhys (novel)
Ruth Prawer Jhabvala (screenplay)
View company contact information for Quartet on IMDbPro.
Release Date:
25 October 1981 (USA) See more »
Marya finds herself penniless after her art dealer husband, Stephan, is convicted of theft. Marya accepts the hospitality of a strange couple, H.J. and Lois Heidler, who lets her live in their house. Full summary » | Add synopsis »
Nominated for BAFTA Film Award. Another 2 wins & 1 nomination See more »
User Reviews:
Not a Quartet, simply a Maggie Smith solo... See more (13 total) »


  (in credits order) (verified as complete)

Alan Bates ... H.J. Heidler

Maggie Smith ... Lois Heidler

Isabelle Adjani ... Marya 'Mado' Zelli

Anthony Higgins ... Stephan Zelli
Pierre Clémenti ... Théo the Pornographer

Suzanne Flon ... Mme. Hautchamp
Daniel Mesguich ... Pierre Schlamovitz

Sheila Gish ... Anna
Armelia McQueen ... Night Club Singer
Wiley Wood ... Cairn
Virginie Thévenet ... Madmoiselle Chardin
Daniel Chatto ... Guy

Bernice Stegers ... Miss Nicholson
Paulita Sedgwick ... Esther
Sébastien Floche ... Edouard Hautchamp
Isabelle Canto da Maya ... Cri-Cri (as Isabelle Canto Da Maya)
François Viaur ... Lefranc
Dino Zanghi ... Prison Guard
Michel Such ... Prison Guard
Jean-Pierre Dravel ... Prison Guard
Annie Noël ... Maid
Maurice Ribot ... Pianist
Pierre Julien ... Impresario
Humbert Balsan ... Impresario's Friend
Serge Marquand ... Night Club Owner
Muriel Montossé ... Marjorie
Caroline Loeb ... Nun
Jeffrey Kime ... James
Shirley Allan ... Adriana
Anne-Marie Brissonière ... Les Oiseaux
Marie-France De Bourges ... Les Oiseaux
Brigitte Hermetz ... Les Oiseaux
Josine Comellas ... Café Patronne
Romain Brémond ... Youth
Arlette Spetebroot ... Drowned Girl (as Arlette Spetelbroot)
Monique Mauclair ... Hotel Concierge
rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Bonnafet Tarbouriech ... Prison Guard (uncredited)

Directed by
James Ivory 
Writing credits
Jean Rhys (novel)

Ruth Prawer Jhabvala (screenplay)

Michel Maingois (French dialogue)

James Ivory  screenplay (uncredited)

Produced by
Humbert Balsan .... associate producer
Connie Kaiserman .... associate producer
Jean-Pierre Mahot .... producer (as Jean-Pierre Mahot de la Querantonnais)
Ismail Merchant .... producer
Original Music by
Richard Robbins 
Cinematography by
Pierre Lhomme 
Film Editing by
Humphrey Dixon 
Production Design by
Jean-Jacques Caziot 
Costume Design by
Judy Moorcroft 
Makeup Department
Jean-Pierre Berroyer .... hair stylist
Danielle Jacquillard .... assistant hair stylist
Ken Lintott .... makeup artist (as Kenneth Lintott)
Tommie Manderson .... makeup artist (as Tommy Manderson)
Marie-Madeleine Paris .... assistant makeup artist
Christiane Sauvage .... assistant makeup artist (as Christine Sauvage)
Production Management
Jean de Trégomain .... assistant unit manager
Alain Depardieu .... unit manager
Jean-Marc Deschamps .... assistant unit manager
Fabien Dufour .... assistant unit manager
Second Unit Director or Assistant Director
Hugues de Laugardière .... assistant director
Art Department
Robert Christidès .... set dresser
Jean-Michel Hugon .... assistant art director
Alain Laude .... prop man
Sound Department
Bernard Bats .... sound
Alan Coddington .... sound assistant
Michel Kharat .... boom operator
Richard King .... sound re-recordist
David Renton .... sound editor
Camera and Electrical Department
Pierre Abraham .... gaffer
Jacques Barbazange .... grip
Philippe Brun .... camera operator
Alain Dreze .... grip
Eric Dumage .... focus puller
Michel Gonckel .... electrician
Jean-Yves Le Poulain .... assistant camera (as Jean-Yves De Poulain)
Gilles Lienard .... electrician
Alain Masseron .... crane operator: Louma crane
Juan Quirno .... still photographer
André Thiéry .... key grip
Casting Department
Serge Marquand .... extras casting
Costume and Wardrobe Department
Keith Morton .... wardrobe assistant
Renée Renard .... wardrobe assistant
Editorial Department
Mark Potter Jr. .... first assistant editor
Location Management
Jacques Quinternet .... location scout
Music Department
Al Aarons .... musician: trumpet
Rudy Collins .... musician: drums
Vic Flick .... conductor
Vic Flick .... music arranger
Allen Jackson .... musician: bass
J. Leonard Oxley .... conductor
J. Leonard Oxley .... musician: piano
Benny Powell .... musician: trombone
John Richards .... music recordist
Jerome Richardson .... musician: tenor sax and clarinet
Marshall Royal .... musician: alto sax and clarinet
Other crew
Elizabeth Aldrich .... choreographer
Peter Ansin .... assistant to producers
Angelique Armand-Delille .... picture assistant
Jane Buck .... script girl
Marta Carliski .... press
Daniel Champagnon .... production accountant
Jean De Gramont .... portraits
Maurice Defait .... groupman
Brigitte Faure .... production accountant
Jacques Fontanier .... assistant to director (as Jacques Fontannier)
François Marcepoil .... portraits
Serge Meynard .... assistant to director
Hubert Niogret .... production controller
Fiona O'Connor .... dialogue coach
Jennifer Patrick .... dialogue coach
Sylvie Richez .... production secretary
Crew verified as complete

Production CompaniesDistributorsOther Companies

Additional Details

Also Known As:
USA:101 min
Aspect Ratio:
1.78 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:
Filming Locations:

Did You Know?

The film takes place in 1924.See more »
Pierre Schlamovitz:Nowadays, people live in a dirty way. There's no tradition. There's nothing beautiful.See more »
Movie Connections:
Referenced in The Last Horror Film (1982)See more »
Full Time LoverSee more »


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3 out of 12 people found the following review useful.
Not a Quartet, simply a Maggie Smith solo..., 30 August 2008
Author: Andy (film-critic) from Bookseller of the Blue Ridge

"Quartet" was nothing more than just "Sad Café" with Redgrave replaced by Maggie Smith. Sure, the stories are different, but Smith carried this film – throughout the hour and forty minutes, I watched just her, apathetic towards anyone else. The music was dull, the scenery was again beautiful but teetered on repetitious, and our story was non-existent. Cheating socialites … art thieves … wives attempting to keep control … the elements were all in place, but M&I could not carry the raw emotion to this film. "Quartet", simply put, was downgraded to a miserable solo.

Merchant & Ivory did a great job in showing us Paris, 1920, both physically and emotionally. Having watched other films trying to capture the feel and vision of this era, they went above and beyond by handing us scenes in apartments, lounges, and those eccentric party scenes. The detail towards both the locations and the costumes were amazing, especially for Maggie Smith who seemed perfect in her imagined time and place. There was even this great scene that demonstrated the sexual consensus during this era. As this is a film about the honesty of love, it fit well into the dual-emotions being felt by both Smith and Adjani (the woman who moves into Smith and Bates' relationship). Ivory, directing this film, has done a phenomenal job of building the imagery, such as the places, events, and material feel for "Quartet", and he even does a great job in giving us the symbolism of the characters. Smith, playing the dedicated wife to her husband, HJ (played by Alan Bates), is eerily similar to the youthful Adjani - seemingly unable to say no to the forceful advances of Bates. Ivory gives us this rare glimpse to see what a youthful Smith may have been experiencing when she first met Bates, and why she allows this destructive ménage a trios. Coupled with the other sexual parodies throughout, Ivory has captured his desired emotions, but where "Quartet" fails is that he doesn't know what to do with them.

So, our scenes are set up beautifully. The underlining meaning behind our characters is also in place (giving graduate students something to talk about), but exactly does this film fail. "Quartet" never reaches the level of "Sad Café" because outside of Maggie Smith, none of our characters are worth their price. A maniacal combination of over-the-top acting and horrid editing, one would nearly need to watch "Quartet" four times before fully seeing the central characters come to life. This was a difficult film to follow, because our leads were impossible to stand behind, and our story seemed rushed and never quite developed. Sure, we had great visuals to accompany them, but it wasn't enough. I never thought I knew the pressures of Adjani throughout the entire film – the anger of Bates seemed to come from left field (not enough development), and Adjani's husband could have been a cardboard cut-out and still be able to get the job done. Due to the sub-par acting, Maggie Smith was able to chomp down hard and demonstrate a full range of abilities. "Quartet" is worth watching merely for Smith, but the rest will leave you bored. It fails because Ivory has created a film with the minority in mind.

This is not a film for everyone, and having seen several slow-moving British films, it wasn't even right for me. Ivory seems to be lacking a universal message, something that one could escape from the film with. Something that, in a group of friends, one could say "But I did like this part because…" For "Quartet" it wasn't there. Perhaps it was the translation from Jean Rhys' novel. Not everything can be translated from the printed page, and where you could read a scene as less subtle, Ivory went hysterical. There were just these moments, especially near the end, where instead of coming to a conclusion, Ivory instituted anger, rage, and screaming. It just didn't work. It didn't fit these under-developed characters. My major issue with this film is that events took place that didn't fit our actors. We were subjugated to watch them do things in this film that I do not believe they would actually do – our character's actions seemed to negate their voice.

Overall, "Quartet" stimulated my visual senses, demonstrated the power of Maggie Smith, and slipped some symbolic messages deep within the sub-text of the film, but on every other level it failed. Again, Smith proved that even playing a secondary character, she could take the role, give us those emotion-filled eyes, and steal away every scene possible. Even when she wasn't on screen, we couldn't help but wonder what she was doing. Ivory, as director, cannot seem to control the story. His failure comes with the horrid translation of Rhys' work. They chose to replace emotion with rage, which transformed the story's irony of love into confusing connections. Paris, 1920s, was beautiful. He hit his stride very well with our location, but the rest of the film flopped like a suffocating fish. "Quartet" is a very dry film – due mainly in part to our disastrous actors unable to life and the doldrums the repeating score. It had quite a bit of potential, but never quite fulfilled any promises. Merchant & Ivory created a film that some will love, but missed their opportunity to appeal to greater masses. Not that this film had to be a blockbuster, by strengthening the characters as well as the story, Ivory could have had another solid cinematic experience. Instead, it fumbled – causing the viewers to be the ones that suffered the most.

Grade: ** ½ out of *****

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