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Set in 1930s Shanghai, where a blind American diplomat develops a curious relationship with a young Russian refugee who works odd -- and sometimes illicit -- jobs to support members of her dead husband's aristocratic family.
Anne is investigating the life of her grand-aunt Olivia, whose destiny has always been shrouded with scandal. The search leads back to the early 1920s, when Olivia, recently married to Douglas, a civil servant in the colonial administration, comes to live with him in India. Slowly, Olivia becomes fascinated by India and by the local ruler, a nawab who combines British distinction with Indian pomp and ruthlessness. This fascination is not without risks: the region is being ransacked by a group of sanguinary bandits, and intrigues are opposing the prejudiced British community led by Major Minnies and Dr. Saunders against the nawab. As Anne delves into the history of her grand-aunt, she is led to reconsider her own life.Written by
Eduardo Casais <email@example.com>
As per usual, James Ivory captures a good feel for the period and setting, helped by, as usual, a fitting Richard Robbins score. As a cultural study, it has some things to say, with an insight into the culture of the indigenous Indian population, but it conveys little in the way of messages, as the screenplay is awfully convoluted, not helped by switching between different narrators and time periods. Some of the supporting characters are not defined well either, and there are a few lethargic gaps between events in the tale. The filming on-location is great, and generally it is all rather well made, but it pales against the work that Merchant-Ivory would produce later on, as this simply is not near a perfect film.
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