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The Portrait of a Lady (Widescreen Edition) [VHS]

3.6 out of 5 stars 121 customer reviews


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Product Details

  • Actors: Nicole Kidman, John Malkovich, Barbara Hershey, Martin Donovan, Mary-Louise Parker
  • Directors: Jane Campion
  • Writers: Henry James, Laura Jones
  • Producers: Ann Wingate, Heidrun Reshöft, Mark Turnbull, Monty Montgomery, Steve Golin
  • Format: Closed-captioned, Color, Letterboxed, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English, Italian
  • Rated:
    PG-13
    Parents Strongly Cautioned
  • Number of tapes: 1
  • Studio: USA
  • VHS Release Date: June 8, 1999
  • Run Time: 144 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (121 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 6304419724
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #364,679 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I purchased the Henry James novel, Portrait of a Lady, several years ago and what I remember most about the book is that I could not manage to remain interested long enough to move beyond the first few chapters. During his lifetime, Williams James criticized his younger brother's novels for, in so many words, containing too much tedious detail that only stood in the way of the plot. I could not agree more, However, what Director Jane Campion has done with this story is anything but tedious. She begins with rich settings and unusual camera angles then brings the characters to life with a very convincing all-star cast. Nicole Kidman does a fabulous portrayal of Isabel Archer, the independent-minded and impetuous young American heiress who is so intent on remaining single - if only to avoid marriage to a 'proper man of means' because it is what's 'expected' of her - that she finds herself running from the one man who, out of genuine love and concern, pursues her across an ocean while she allows herself to be swept away by the cold and cunning Gilbert Osmond, most excellently portrayed by John Malkovich. Be sure to watch the bonus feature, 'The making of Portrait of a Lady.'
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Format: DVD
This movie has haunted me since I first saw it in its theatrical release. I hadn't read the book when I saw the movie but corrected that after viewing. The movie is mysterious at the end and I hoped to gain some insight in reading the book. I did. The movie is very true to James' novel which ends ambiguously. The movie slowly unfolds and for some there won't be enough action but if you like period pieces that are very literary and allow one to think during scenes you will like Campion's direction of this story.
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Format: DVD
This adaptation of Henry James' technically innovative but infamously dense novel is interesting primarily because director Jane Campion seems to have entirely missed the point. She's mistaken Isabel Archer for a "romance addict" rather than the naive idealist James created. Perhaps aiming for wider appeal, she tries to turn this from the portrait of a unique female personality into a more general exploration of "women in love". Such universalizing might have worked if she and screenwriter Laura Jones had also had the wherewithal to change the story to suit their modified heroine. But having ditched the most critical aspect of the novel, they then remain reasonably faithful to its flow of events, with Isabel choosing an ugly, "sterile dilettante" (Malkovich) over a handsome lover and a rich English lord (Mortensen and Grant respectively) both of whom are infatuated with her. For Isabel the "naive idealist", such a choice is perfectly understandable. For Isabel the "romance addict", and women in general, such a choice beggars belief. So this not only fails as an adaptation, it fails as a convincing narrative in its own right. Screenwriting devotees might be drawn to it wondering just how Jones will convey Isabel's famous interiority without resorting to voiceover. The answer is simple: she ignores it in the writing (with the exception of one inspired fantasy sequence) and leaves most of it to performance. The result is that Kidman spends more than half the film in incomprehensible tears. The novel's Isabel cries once in 600 pages. For all that, this film is still not without reward: the performances from the near-ensemble cast are universally marvellous, the settings and costumes exquisite, and the music and cinematography are a perfect match for it all. There's no doubting Campion's skill as a director; I just doubt her interpretation of the source material.
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Format: DVD
Nicole Kidman IS Isabel Archer! I don't understand why some reviewers here panned her acting as bad. She has never looked more beautiful than in this film. Her acting is also superb and expressive.
This is the story about a young American woman (Isabel) who is just orphaned and is invited to stay with her rich relatives, the Touchetts in Victorian England. While in England, she is wooed by the rich Lord Warburton but she rejects his proposal because she wants to see the world and be free. When her uncle later dies, Isabel inherits a big sum of money and becomes truly rich and "independent". It is actually her cousin, the consumptive Ralph Touchett (who is secretly in love with her) who pressed his father to leave the money to Isabel without Isabel's knowledge. By this time, Isabel has met the scheming and mysterious Madame Merle (who plays Schubert on the piano most beautifully, I must add). M. Merle introduces Isabel to "her friend", Gilbert Osmond, a poor and widowed American staying in Italy who has a young daughter, Pansy. Both M. Merle and Osmond scheme to make Isabel marry Osmond so that he could have her money. Isabel innocently falls into their trap. Despite advice and dissuasions from her relatives, she eagerly marries Osmond and her life after that becomes a true nightmare. There is also a sub-plot involving Pansy's impossible love affair with Ned Rossum (played by Christian Bale).
The accompanying booklet of the DVD provides valuable information on the making of the film and the cast profile e.g. the fact that Jane Campion finds this to be her hardest project. From the movie, it is easy to see that she had put in tremendous effort to bring Henry James' classic to life.
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