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Quartet - The Merchant Ivory Collection (1981)

Alan Bates , Maggie Smith , James Ivory  |  R |  DVD
2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)


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Product Details

  • Actors: Alan Bates, Maggie Smith, Isabelle Adjani, Anthony Higgins, Pierre Clémenti
  • Directors: James Ivory
  • Writers: James Ivory, Jean Rhys, Michel Maingois, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala
  • Producers: Connie Kaiserman, Humbert Balsan, Ismail Merchant
  • Format: Color, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: February 24, 2004
  • Run Time: 101 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00014NE6C
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #127,752 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Quartet - The Merchant Ivory Collection" on IMDb

Special Features

  • Conversation with the filmmakers, part of a new series of interviews with Ismail Merchant, James Ivory, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, and Richard Robbins

Editorial Reviews

A story of a girl who, adrift with her feckless husband amid the literati of glittering Paris in the 1920s, becomes entrapped by a rich and sybaritic English couple. From the wistful melancholy of the autobiographical novel by Jean Rhys, Quartet is full of intense confrontations dazzlingly acted by Alan Bates, Maggie Smith, Anthony Higgins, and Isabelle Adjani. The characters act out their passions not only in the usual seedy cafés and louche hotels of Rhys’ Parisian novels but also the smoky jazz haunts and lavish settings of a James Ivory film. Nevertheless, Quartet remains, in theme, one of the Merchant Ivory team’s darkest and most compelling dramas of relationships dangerously intertwined.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
89 of 98 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars an overlooked Merchant/Ivory treasure October 4, 2000
By A Customer
Format:VHS Tape
Since its release in the early 1980s, Quartet hasn't been remembered as much as some of their other films. Thats a shame because Quartet is one of their finer works. A very engrossing drama about mind control and deceit. As one would expect from M & A, the attention to detail in recreating the roaring 20's is fabulous. Alan Bates does a wonderful job as H.B., the controlling maniac disguised as a gentleman. Maggie Smith is heartbreaking as the passive wife who tries desperately to cling to her husband despite his infidelities. But its Isabelle Adjani who steals the show. Her character's development from innocent, to arrogant, to ignorant makes Quartet memorable.
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26 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Road to Ruin July 3, 2008
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
I was really surprised by the negative reviews for this film. But Quartet is not the standard Merchant Ivory film at all. The topic may be dark, but there is still great beauty, great acting and great filmmaking in this story of repression, decadence, alienation and the search for something better (even thought the lead character never finds it).

Very incredible performances from Adjani, Smith and Bates. But that's to be expected. And there should be great applause for many of the supporting actors as well: Anthony Higgins(as Adjani's seductive yet caring husband), Sheila Gish(as a chatty,gossipy closet lesbian) and Daniel Chatto (in a supporting role as a melodramatic adolescent pretty boy).

See this movie for the rare dramatic performance from Maggie Smith, who can still make on laugh with just a glance or roll of the eyes. Adjani is astonishing, as is to be expected, playing the lead role of the confused and naieve Mayra. It is probably her best performance since her debut in the Story of Adele H.

It is actually quite easy to see why Merchant Ivory decided to make the Jean Rhys novel into a film. There are clear parallels between characters that Rhys writes about and those In EM Forster's novels. Quartet's main character, Mayra, is an outsider, desperately trying to get to the inside of something that is considered "normal". Forster lived his life in the same way. Both writers, in their journey for a better life, simply wrote about both the joy and pain along the way in their books.

I saw this movie a long time ago on video and the quality was not good. I have to give this movie another 5 stars just because of the excellent transfer. It is 100% better in the audio and the screen presentation. Here you can see the great detail found in the scenery, the costumes and the performance from the actors.

This is a definite must see.
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25 of 33 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Details on the DVD from Home Vision (2004) December 5, 2007
By pac
Format:DVD
Note: Rating is for DVD only, not the film itself. As details on this DVD transfer of "Quartet" are pretty thin to date, both from Amazon and also existing customer reviews, you should know that this release was produced in association with The Criterion Collection.

Part of Home Vision's 2003-2005 Merchant Ivory Collection, the DVD was released under the "supervision of Ismail Merchant and James Ivory," according to the liner notes. As you would expect from a collaboration of Criterion and Merchant/Ivory, obvious care was taken with the DVD transfer and package.

The anamorphically enhanced digital transfer comes from the original 35mm interpositive and is presented in the OAR 1.78:1. Most dirt and debris have been cleaned up so viewers can more fully appreciate Pierre Lhomme's cinematography. Although much of the time colors are dark and muted, moments of rich color are also fully rendered here. Not without flaws, but this transfer appears very solid to someone who never saw the film during roadshow theatrical release in 1981.

The audio transfer is limited to Dolby Digital mono from the film's original 35mm magnetic soundtrack master. The film is largely dialogue driven with selected musical moments. So while it is mostly clear and listenable, there is no indication from the liner notes that efforts were made to complete a sound restoration beyond using the original elements.

For subtitles there are a few options. The DVD default is subtitles for the French dialogue only. There are also options for full subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing, as well as no subtitles at all.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Get the other "Quartet" because this one is creepy October 28, 2013
Format:DVD
Strange the Maggie Smith has starred in two movies entitled "Quartet." This one, dating from the early 1980s, has a stellar cast and comes with the Merchant-Ivory seal of approval - but it's kind of nasty and repellant.

Set in Paris in the 1920s, it tells the story of a young woman played by the haunting Isabelle Adjani whose Polish husband, who peddles in stolen or fraudulent art, is sent to prison for a year. Without money, the young woman falls into the clutches of a creepy English couple played by Alan Bates and Smith. Bates is self-absorbed and repellent and Smith's character is pathetic and subservient. The poor young girl is expected to sleep with the older Englishman - and duly does.

I failed to get the point of this movie. The characters are all weak or nasty and there's nobody to identify with. Perhaps the point is to show how powerless women were in that era - but one should not have to suffer through this movie to understand that.

Merchant Ivory had their triumphs, notable "A Room with a View." This entry into their oeuvre is best forgotten.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars A real turkey
It's difficult to image a truely dreadful Merchant - Ivory film, but this is it. Pointless, rambling, and with terrible performances by everyone except Maggie Smith, this is an A... Read more
Published 10 months ago by addison de witt
5.0 out of 5 stars There is more than a quartet of reasons to love this movie!
Sadly, this film is unbearably hard to find and yet it is one of the best films of the 80's and one of the best offerings from Merchant Ivory, so I implore you to do what you can... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Andrew Ellington
1.0 out of 5 stars "There is nothing beautiful."
The story opens in Paris, in the 1920s, where a wealthy, loveless couple (Maggie Smith, Alan Bates) goes from party to party and is still bored. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Kona
1.0 out of 5 stars IT'S LIKE WATCHING PAINT DRY
How anyone could make such a souless, pointless, tedious film with one of the most extraordinary cast of actors imaginable truly strains credulity. Read more
Published 18 months ago by RANDEL
5.0 out of 5 stars Dark flick with Adjani shining ever so bright
Based on Jean Rhys' first novel, this dark story appears to be a thinly-veiled autobiography of when her literary mentor, novelist Ford Maddox Ford, had her as his 'kept woman. Read more
Published 19 months ago by Bert vanC Bailey
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazon error
Why was a paragraph on the new "Quartet" movie included with the Merchant Ivory version. Makes for a very confusing review. Read more
Published 20 months ago by rocky
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing story from Jean Rhys
Well acted with great actors but I did not like it at all. The 20s society in Paris was corrupt and unsympathetic. A depressing movie. Read more
Published 22 months ago by Olive Gale Mullet
3.0 out of 5 stars Paris in the 20's for better or worse
This film has the splendid visuals you expect from a Merchant Ivory production. Set in Paris in the 20's with the wonderful costumes as well as the bars and bistros of Montmarte,... Read more
Published on January 18, 2012 by Promise
2.0 out of 5 stars Not quite a Quartet, simply a Maggie Smith solo...
When one sees the production/direction team of Merchant & Ivory, there comes with that name a level of sophistication, or one could say an air of dedication. Read more
Published on August 30, 2008 by A. Gyurisin
1.0 out of 5 stars AVOID AT ALL COST...
Merchant-Ivory have never been more self-conscious or grasping for, for , what...a decent script by the usually capable Ruth Prawer Jhabvala? Read more
Published on August 15, 2004 by JamesJames
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