The Directors: Season 2, Episode 31

The Films of James Ivory

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He's The 'Ivory' In Merchant-Ivory
21 July 2009 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Mention "it's an Merchant-Ivory film" to another movie buff, and you'll usually get a nod of approval. People know their movies are often rich in visuals and storytelling. James Ivory is a director and was the subject of this episode. Ismail Merchant, who passed away in 2005, wasn't mentioned that much because he was a producer and this is a show about directors. Nonetheless, fans of "The Remains of The Day," "A Passage To India," "Howard's End," and "A Room With A View" will all remember this duo fondly.

Ivory, it turns out, is even lower-key than his films which means, frankly, this wasn't an exciting episode in "The Director's" TV series. He speaks in a monotone and you have to really pay attention to get any gems out of him....but they are there. Actor Anthony Hopkins said in here that he wished all directors were like that - just let the actors act and then pick out the things you like to be printed.

What I didn't know about this famous director were all the films that didn't get anywhere near the publicity the above-mentioned ones got. Maybe they weren't that good. Many were made before "A Room With A View" made Ivory a known film name. Some were films which had unlikeable themes, such as doting on Thomas Jefferson's sexual relationship with a slave or the painter Picasso's peculiarities. All the may have been true but many times filmmakers seem so out of touch what the public is interesting in seeing. The public doesn't want heroes trashed. That seems to be the case here with those two films because Ivory can't seem to understand why he got such negative press and poor box-office with those movies ("Jefferson In Paris" and "Surviving Picasso.")

Other Ivory I'll few people have heard of, mentioned on this show with a few film clips added, include "Savages," "The Wild Party," "The Europeans" and most of what he's directed since Picasso. However, that doesn't mean none of them are good; just undiscovered. On a personal note, I saw "The White Countess" (2005) and thought it was very good and visually amazing - typical James Ivory beauty.

Whatever, James Ivory's images on celluloid remain a treat for all those who like to watch classy films. He mentions he "always had an eye for places" and wanted the best cameramen he could get for his films. Joanne Woodward ("Mr. and Mrs. Bridge") sums it up Ivory early in this episode: "He has beautiful taste."

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