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Quartet - The Merchant Ivory Collection

2.9 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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(Feb 24, 2004)
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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.

Special Features

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

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:
  • 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: #87,342 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Quartet - The Merchant Ivory Collection" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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Format: DVD
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 to get your hands on a copy (not everyone is willing to spend nearly $100 on a DVD, but seriously, I'd consider dropping $50 if I were you). James Ivory is obviously in his wheelhouse here, delving into British aristocracy, and yet he makes it all the more alluring and sexualized, which adds to the intrigue and undeniable draw.

The film centers on a young woman named Marya who is left destitute when her husband is convicted of theft and sentenced to jail time. Alone and penniless, she accepts the open arms of a strange older couple, the Heidlers, and winds up being trapped in her new surroundings by their overbearing presence in her life. The film delves deeply (yet with such restraint) into the themes of alienation and manipulation and uses sharp dialog and a delicate attention to detail to create a lush and consuming atmosphere with real bite. As the film progresses, the character's find new layers to uncover and keep the audience at the edge of their seats, waiting for the inevitable to take over.

And it does.

With impeccable technical facets (those costumes and sets are to die for) and a rich story to work with, it was up to the actors to sell this story under the direction of James Ivory, and they do. Isabelle Adjani is brilliantly reserved, yet in tune with each arc her character goes through. But, for me, this film is all about Alan Bates and Maggie Smith, who steal every minute they are on the screen with two vastly different characters who are completely in step with each other's manipulation of Marya.
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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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