Ruth Prawer Jhabvala

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Oscar Winner Dies - Ruth Prawer Jhabvala Passes After “Long Illness”


Ruth Prawer Jhabvala

Film world mourns as Oscar Winner Dies. Ruth Prawer Jhabvala passed away after a long illness, her daughter, Firoza Jhabvala confirmed. She penned twenty-two films over an illustrious career, and won two Oscars.

Jhabvala won two Academy Awards for her adaptations of the E.M. Forster novels "Howards End" and "A Room With a View." She was also nominated for adapting 1993's "The Remains of the Day, while three films were in the running for Best Picture. Firoza Jhabvala confirmed to the Associated Press Wednesday (April 3rd) that her mother died in New York after a long illness. "Ruth Prawer Jhabvala has been a beloved member of the Merchant Ivory family since 1960, comprising one-third of our indomitable trifecta that included director James Ivory and the late producer Ismail Merchant," said the company's director of development, Neil Jesuele. "The passing of our two-time Academy Award winning screenwriter is a significant loss to the global film community." But she didn’t just lend her talents to writing for the screen, Jhabvala was also lauded for her work for her fiction.

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Oscar Winner Dies: ‘Howards End’ Screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala Has Died


Ruth Prawer Jhabvala

Oscar winner dies aged 85: CBS News have reported that Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, the Merchant Ivory stalwart and Academy Award winning screenwriter died in New York. The news was confirmed by her daughter Firoza Jhabvala.

Ruth Prawer Jhabvala was a long-term member of Merchant Ivory Productions and a prolific contributor to their oeuvre; she wrote 22 movies over four decades and won two Academy Awards for her adaptations of EM Forster’s novels, Howards End and A Room With A View. She also received an Oscar nomination for The Remains of The Day. A statement from Merchant Ivory Productions paid tribute to the late writer: “Ruth Prawer Jhabvala has been a beloved member of the Merchant Ivory family since 1960, comprising one-third of our indomitable trifecta that included director James Ivory and the late producer Ismail Merchant… The passing of our two-time Academy Award winning screenwriter is a significant loss to the global film community.”

Jhabvala was also known as a successful novelist and won the Booker prize for her 1975 novel Heat & Dust and her stories often appeared in The New Yorker magazine, with the most recent one being published last month. She is survived by her husband Cyrus Jhabvala, her daughter Firoza Jhabvala and two other daughters, as well as six grandchildren.

Howards End Review


Excellent
After 35 years of toiling and only one hit to their name (A Room with a View), the directing-producing team of Merchant-Ivory finally hit their stride with Howards End, a work that would become synonymous with their names and the template for their unmistakable style.

Slow, intricate, and deeply symbolic, Howards End ranks among the top films in their oeuvre. It's a history that, if you look at it closely, really amounts to three greats (End, Room, and The Remains of the Day) and a whole lot of nothing-much-else. But that's a subject for another day.

Continue reading: Howards End Review

The Golden Bowl Review


Weak
James Ivory and Ismail Merchant had one hell of a mess on their hands in getting The Golden Bowl to theaters. In the end, they ended up buying back the rights from the studio, which wanted additional edits. Those edits might not have been such a bad idea, as the film, based on a Henry James novel, is considerably dull, despite its brisk pace and cast of dozens, all parlor-room types (and Merchant-Ivory alumni like James Fox and Nick Nolte) who speak in a hifalutin meter when they aren't busy boinking one another in a series of adulteries. And yet it's still boring. The Golden Bowl has some inviting characters (much like the similarly droll House of Mirth, but at least it had Gillian Anderson), but this story is just too slow, too predictable (oh, he married a girl for money but is in love with her friend... what a surprise), and too long to be of much interest to anyone but the costume-drama obsessed.

A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries Review


Weak
...unless she's stuck in this bizarre girlie-coming-of-age in the sex-happy 1960s. Based on the life of writer James Jones and his daughter -- neither of whom I've ever heard of before or since this film.

Le Divorce Review


OK
Two American blondes discover the joys of Paris - love, heartache, and wearing scarves in a multitude of ways. The blondes are the Walker sisters of California, Roxy (Naomi Watts) and Isabel (Kate Hudson). As Le Divorce opens, Isabel has just arrived in Paris to stay with Roxy and help her out in the late stages of her pregnancy. As luck would have it, Isabel shows up just as Roxy's husband, Charles-Henri (Melvil Poupaud) is walking out on her and their young daughter. The highly moralistic Roxy refuses to give Charles-Henri a divorce, instigating a battle with his extensive, wealthy family, which is lorded over with queenly arrogance by his mother, Suzanne de Persand (Leslie Caron).

The conflict between the Walker and de Persand clans is meant to be only the backdrop for the film's marquee star, Kate Hudson, to strut her naïve self around Paris and fall in lust with Charles-Henri's uncle, the much-older Edgar (Thierry Lhermitte), a suave TV commentator. But it is this familial battleground that quickly becomes the more engaging storyline, especially after Roxy and Isabel's parents (Sam Waterston and Stockard Channing) fly in from California to help out in the negotiations. Waterston and Channing play their roles with effortless grace, establishing that they've been comfortably married for years by using only the slightest of gestures.

Continue reading: Le Divorce Review

Roseland Review


OK
Christopher Walken's appearance here -- in a very early role, a year before his breakout in The Deer Hunter -- is the primary (if not the only) reason to check out Roseland, which also happens to be an early Merchant-Ivory collaboration, too. Roseland is a movie about the eponymous New York dance hall, set in the 1970s (I'm estimating), and comprising three stories set in its cavernous environs.

Barely connected, the middle segment is Walken's -- cleverly titled "The Hustle" -- as he plays a gigolo working three different women, each with different needs and different issues. Walken hadn't created his signature speaking cadence yet, and it's shocking not only to hear him deliver lines in a relatively normal voice, but also with such a large pompadour. This is also Walken's first film where his masterful dancing is on display (see also 1981's Pennies from Heaven) -- and fans of "Weapon of Choice" will definitely want to check out a little vintage Walken high step here.

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Surviving Picasso Review


Grim
If you learn only one thing while watching Surviving Picasso, it will probably be this: Pablo Picasso was a big fat jerk.

Unfortunately, that's about all you'll learn, as Merchant-Ivory's latest exercise in excess sheds little light on the great artiste and leaves the viewer with even less of an understanding as to why Picasso was the man he was.

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Shakespeare Wallah Review


OK
The first sequence of Shakespeare Wallah shows British actors clowning around like idiots while knowing Indian servants wince, and it looks like the film will be a typically simple-minded parody of British "imperialism." This early Merchant-Ivory collaboration shares the same subject matter -- the end of the British Empire -- as many of their later films, but it develops into a more intimate and nuanced work than the team's subsequent high-profile period films, like The Remains of the Day.

Probably this is because the story, which concerns an unsuccessful troupe of English Shakespearean actors in post-colonial India, is semi-autobiographical. Several of the actors, most of whom are somehow related (Felicity Kendal is the daughter of Geoffrey Kendal and Laura Liddell in life as well as on screen), were actually members of an English-Indian theatrical troupe who toured India in the 1960s. The film is most interesting as a tour of India when it was still in some ways a British country.

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Mr. & Mrs. Bridge Review


Grim
Merchant-Ivory, working stateside for once. Maybe not such a good idea, as this Paul Newman/Joanne Woodward vehicle is dry as dust, chronicling with detached boredom the ups and downs of the Bridge family, of which Newman is the head. Tiresome and uninspired, it ends as abruptly as it begins, with nary an audience member to care about any of it.

The Remains of the Day Review


Excellent
What a heartbreaker. Looking back on The Remains of the Day after seven years, I find I have a new appreciation for the film. What I once felt was a hollow look at servants in pre-WWII rural England, oblivious to the world around them, devoid of any real emotion, I now see in a different light. A closer look shows all the deep and heartfelt emotion just under the surface of Anthony Hopkins, underrewarded in one of the finest roles of his career. James Fox also shines as a Nazi semi-sympathetic aristocrat who "just wants peace," and Emma Thompson dazzles as the only real backbone in the bunch. Also look for good yet smallish turns from Christopher Reeve, Ben Chaplin, and Hugh Grant.

The Courtesans of Bombay Review


OK
Ismael Merchant's 1983 documentary takes a quick and almost casual look at one of Bombay's odd compounds: A residence/office/studio of sorts where women with entertainment industry aspirations spend their days practicing. Patrons will drop by to watch, paying what they feel appropriate. By night, as one of our local tour guides (a rent collector) tells us, things occur that we're better off not knowing about.

These are the titular "courtesans of Bombay," and we eventually come to learn a little (probably too little) about this peculiar industry in India's big cities. The most cutting moment is how one of the narrators notes that pregnant women in this area pray for a girl: A boy is useless, his only potential worth to the family would be in being a pimp to other girls. In the compound, one young girl is so valuable that she can work while the rest of the family just sleeps all day on the floor (as is seen frequently in the crude video footage).

Continue reading: The Courtesans of Bombay Review

Quartet Review


Weak
Quartet is -- quite strangely -- based on a true story. Jean Rhys's novel traces her life in glitzy Paris in the 1920s, one which stood in start contrast to the city lights.

Rhys -- reinvented here as Isabelle Adjani's wide-eyed Marya Zelli -- found her husband, an illegal art dealer, arrested and thrown into prison. Suddenly broke, she shacked up with a pair of Brits of questionable morality, eventually getting cut loose, whereupon she would become a professional writer.

Continue reading: Quartet Review

Howards End Review


Excellent
After 35 years of toiling and only one hit to their name (A Room with a View), the directing-producing team of Merchant-Ivory finally hit their stride with Howards End, a work that would become synonymous with their names and the template for their unmistakable style.

Slow, intricate, and deeply symbolic, Howards End ranks among the top films in their oeuvre. It's a history that, if you look at it closely, really amounts to three greats (End, Room, and The Remains of the Day) and a whole lot of nothing-much-else. But that's a subject for another day.

Continue reading: Howards End Review

Ruth Prawer Jhabvala

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