6.5/10
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Quartet (1981)

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.

Director:

James Ivory

Writers:

Jean Rhys (novel), Ruth Prawer Jhabvala (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
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Nominated for 1 BAFTA Film Award. Another 2 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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 Armelia McQueen ... Night Club Singer
Wiley Wood Wiley Wood ... Cairn
Virginie Thévenet Virginie Thévenet ... Madmoiselle Chardin
Daniel Chatto Daniel Chatto ... Guy
Bernice Stegers ... Miss Nicholson
Paulita Sedgwick Paulita Sedgwick ... Esther
Sébastien Floche Sébastien Floche ... Edouard Hautchamp
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Storyline

It's 1927 Paris. Following the conviction of her art dealer husband, Stephan Zelli, for theft for which he was handed a one-year prison sentence, Marya Zelli, originally from West India, 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. From behind bars, Stephan encourages Marya to move in with them not knowing H.J.'s intentions. 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. Their collective lives become more complicated when Stephan is released from jail and tries to figure out what he's ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Drama | Romance

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »
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Details

Official Sites:

Merchant Ivory Productions

Country:

UK | France

Language:

English | French

Release Date:

25 October 1981 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Kvartett See more »

Filming Locations:

France See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Director James Ivory initially resisted the casting of Maggie Smith in the film. Although he did not think her appropriate for the role despite her talent, she was cast by producer Ismail Merchant over Ivory's objections. Ivory later conceded, "... it was one of the most wonderful things that ever happened to me." See more »

Quotes

H.J. Heidler: [to Lois] I'm not interested in being kind to anyone. I'm interested in them. In character. In forms of life. You should've married a stockbroker and stayed with him in South Kensington.
See more »

Alternate Versions

French dubbed version with French credit roll for French Release version. See more »

Connections

Referenced in The Last Horror Film (1982) See more »

Soundtracks

L'Air des Bijoux (Je ris de me voir si belle)
from opera "Faust"
Music by Charles Gounod
Sung by Sophie de Ségur
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Beautifully made but a lesser Merchant-Ivory film
11 August 2015 | by TheLittleSongbirdSee all my reviews

While Quartet may be a lesser Merchant-Ivory film and is no Room with a View, Howard's End of Remains of the Day, it still has a lot to recommend it. It's not great and could have been better, but is decent.

Quartet for starters is beautifully made, as always the costumes and sets are amazingly sumptuous, is lit with a luminous atmosphere and shot with the usual exquisite charm. It's hauntingly scored too, and there is some intelligent scripting too that does have some poignancy and explores the contrast between upper class lifestyles and moral corruption suitably subtly. James Ivory directs with an appropriate amount of restraint, and there is some good acting here. Maggie Smith relishes her juicy character and her performance along with the production values is the best thing about the film. Anthony Higgins is sympathetic enough too.

Alan Bates' character could have been much better realised though, Bates succeeds in being charismatic but he is not intimidating or nuanced enough, Heidler is very one-dimensional and a character you feel nothing for from the get go. Isabelle Adjani is attractive but somewhat too cold and immature, which doesn't make the character's fear resonate. The dialogue is good here, but a better job could have been done with the characters, for they felt sketchily developed and their motivations rushed and unclear. Merchant and Ivory productions are always deliberately paced, but in their very best work the characters and their situations are really compelling and drive the story effectively, unfortunately because that was an aspect that Quartet was (for me) lacking in the pacing did feel a bit lagging and dull.

Overall, lesser Merchant-Ivory but a decent watch. 6/10 Bethany Cox


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