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Quartet (1981)

Quartet (1981)

Isabelle AdjaniSuzanne FlonSébastien FlocheAnthony Higgins
James Ivory


Quartet (1981) is a English,French movie. James Ivory has directed this movie. Isabelle Adjani,Suzanne Flon,Sébastien Floche,Anthony Higgins are the starring of this movie. It was released in 1981. Quartet (1981) is considered one of the best Drama,Romance movie in India and around the world.

It's 1927 Paris. Following the conviction of her art dealer husband, Stephan Zelli (Anthony Higgins), for theft for which he was handed a one-year prison sentence, Marya Zelli (Isabelle Adjani), originally from West India, moves in with her acquaintances, expatriate Brits H.J. (Sir Alan Bates) and Lois Heidler (Dame Maggie Smith). 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 ...


Quartet (1981) Reviews

  • A complex film, the harsh fate of a young woman without resources in the twenties...


    In the tradition of some Merchant/Ivory films...this one deals with very profound social realities for a young woman (Isabelle Adjani)in Paris in the 1920s whose husband is a thief, is jailed. She is left penniless and without means of support (has no working papers). A rather strange English couple (Maggie Smith and Alan Bates) offer her refuge...but at the price of seduction by the husband, tolerated by the artist wife, who is inordinately tied to him emotionally. The young woman's emotional and psychological state is thrown into almost unbearable ambivalance...Love for her husband whom she visits weekly in jail and the need for survival. The film's visual beauty, the lighting, the intensity of color, the evocation of the "jazz age", the cabarets, the authentic costuming, in addition to the splended acting and direction make this a film deserving of far more attention than it's received, in my opinion. A truly cinematic experience of significance.

  • Bleaker than the real-life version.


    Abandoned in Paris with no work permit and no savings, when her art-dealing (illegal) Polish husband is sent to prison, Marya Zelli (Isabelle Adjani) accepts the hospitality of the Heidlers, Lois and H.J.(as Lois invariably calls him) which, probably inevitably, involves her providing bed service to H.J. The video box describes the Heidlers as a "freethinking British couple" - if you can accept a couple, with such limited self-awareness and inability to talk through their problems, as freethinkers. The film is based on the novel by Jean Rhys, based on her own experiences with Ford Madox Ford who presumably had more going for him than H.J., or else he wouldn't be in all those books on the literature of the twenties. Apparently Ford helped Rhys with her novel, and after he tired of her body got her a ghost-writing job on the Riviera. Rhys' husband was out of prison and had abandoned her before she moved in with the Fords. Presumably her major motivation was her devotion to her writing. Marya Zelli, in the film is not a writer, and she stays in Paris because her husband is still in prison. She says more than once to Lois that if given 100 Fr she would disappear (back to England where she could legally work?) but she gets 250 Fr just before moving in with the Heidlers when she sells almost everything she has to the hotel concierge. Thus while the film is of the desperation of no choice, Marya has in fact fewer options than the real-life Rhys, and the film ending where Marya is thrown on the mercy of her husband's acquaintance from prison, is very bleak, unlike Rhys' fate of being ejected to a writing job.

  • A serious disappointment


    It's hard to say exactly why "Quartet" fails. There are certainly some good things to be said; Maggie Smith gives her character just the right mix of not-too-subtle cynicism and self-loathing, and the photography by Pierre Lhomme does a fine job of complementing the surroundings. But there is something missing. The Merchant-Ivory-Jhabvala trio have always invested their stories with a strong compassion for their characters, lending a quiet urgency to the tone. Yet there is little of that feeling here. The desperation of Isabelle Adjani's Marya simply does not ring clear, perhaps because her emotions are kept at a distance from the viewer when they should be brought to the forefront of the story. Marya views Heidler (Alan Bates) as a dominating force, but her fears and his intimidation never develop into anything effective. Bates is an actor who can always be depended on to provide a good performance, but his character is not given enough weight to dominate the screen when he should. In films such as `Howards End' and `The Remains of the Day,' the emotional conflicts between the characters drive the story and keep the (attentive) viewer involved; here, the conflicts do not spurn enough interest because the motivations of those involved are not very clear. The overall effect of "Quartet" is very cold and somber, with few, if any, memorable results.

  • Astonishing sense of place, time and trouble.


    Few screenwriters have ever jumped the gap that Jhabvala traversed between THE EUROPEANS (1979) and QUARTET (1981). I know of no other film that captures as well the sense of European pre-WW2 'decadence' (compare CABARET for an object lesson in failure!), or that is directed and photographed with stronger integration of the settings, colours, sounds and behavior within the story being told. A remarkable achievement - the film that put filmmakers on notice about how well the remarkable Jhabvala/Ivory/Merchant trio present stories locked into their space and time.

  • a moderate Merchant Ivory Production


    Literature cinema maestro James Ivory's 1981 Cannes admission, a film adaptation of Jean Rhys' novel QUARTET, as the name implies, it is a gamble with four participants, aka. two married couples. In Paris, roaring 20s, the opening credits shift from one hotel to another, augurs the rootless fate of Marya Zelli (Adjani), a young and stunning beauty married to Stephan (Higgins), a handsome but self-interested Polish art dealer, who would soon be put behind the bars for his illegal deals, and leave Marya in penury out of the blue. Then there is another couple, a wealthy middle-aged English art dealer H.J. Heidler (Bates) and his painter wife Lois (Smith), comes to Marya's rescue, although they only meet her once before, they insist that Marya should live with him under a ménage-à-trois fashion. Soon, we will know that Marya is not the first damsel-in-distress they timely lend a helping hand, a disreputable compromise has been mutually reached between Lois and H.J., as long as H.J. doesn't leave her, she will turn a blind eye on his affaire de coeur with young girls, even under the same roof, "we have a spare room in our apartment". Marya is easily corrupted by the decadent lifestyle of the Heidlers and their expatriate clique, and after the tentative refusal of H.J.'s advances, she caves in after a bit but inwardly, she still hopes to leave with Stephan after he finishes his one-year sentence, financially dependent on H.J. and Lois, she is unable to make a clean slate even if she wants to. Meanwhile, Lois is also anguished about the inconvenient arrangement, wonders when H.J.'s infatuated phase will end, or this time, it could be herself that be superseded. Men certainly don't look good in the story, when Stephan is released from the penitentiary, it seems that Marya has a tough call to make, but when everything is laid bare, she doesn't even have that option, on a less pungent note, Ivory invokes the misandry from Rhys' works, women are powerless, without exception, mistreated by men in their lives. The narrative tweaks and jumps in an upbeat tempo, even when pathos should be evoked, the shot doesn't care to stick around, Ivory's formulaic direction banally basks in its silk-stocking milieu, the plush delicacy of its trimmings, with offbeat notification of a more risqué scenery. Luckily, the two female leads are as presentable as ever, Dame Maggie Smith (who would star in another film with the same name in 2012, a Dustin Hoffman elderly-skewing comedy QUARTET) rarely reveals her vulnerability in front the camera, showcases a master-class endeavour of breakdown which is needed to be GIFed. Adjani, impeccably gorgeous in her prime, and fluent in her bilingual dexterity, launches herself wholeheartedly in the torrent of trepidation, seduction, vacillation and desperation. Alan Bates is miserly given a stage to justify H.J.'s eloquent equivocation in his immoral business, and Anthony Higgins, whose Stephan takes a back seat among the quartet due to his incarceration, however, flourishes in bringing out a more frank and unapologetic facade of his character although both Stephan and H.J. are equally bad eggs to their women, at least he manifests with a certain flair that's captivating and resolute. Finally, a footnote sends to Sheila Gish, who plays Lois' friend Anna and whose thunder has been stolen by that extraordinary-looking hippopotamus in the zoo. As one of the commodities from Merchant Ivory Productions, QUARTET doesn't represent the best collective results from the Merchant (producer)-Ivory (director)- Jhabvala (screenwriter) trinity, yet, a lavish take of Paris in the early 20th century is something not that common in their repertory, and a BluRay treatment should be taken into consideration in no sooner.


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