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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.

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(novel), (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:
... H.J. Heidler
... Lois Heidler
... Marya 'Mado' Zelli
... Stephan Zelli
... Théo the Pornographer
... Mme. Hautchamp
... Pierre Schlamovitz
... Anna
Armelia McQueen ... Night Club Singer
Wiley Wood ... Cairn
Virginie Thévenet ... Madmoiselle Chardin
Daniel Chatto ... Guy
... Miss Nicholson
Paulita Sedgwick ... Esther
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

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Genres:

Drama | Romance

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »
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Details

Official Sites:

Merchant Ivory Productions

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Language:

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Release Date:

25 October 1981 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Kvartett  »

Filming Locations:

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Technical Specs

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Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
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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.
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Connections

Featured in The Wandering Company (1984) See more »

Soundtracks

Pars
Words and Music by Jean Lenoir
Performed by Isabelle Adjani vocal, with Maurice Ribot piano (uncredited)
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User Reviews

 
Beautifully made but a lesser Merchant-Ivory film
11 August 2015 | by See 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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