Skip to comments.Filmmaker Ismail Merchant Dies
Posted on 05/25/2005 11:21:16 AM PDT by Borges
LONDON - Filmmaker Ismail Merchant, who with partner James Ivory became synonymous with classy costume drama in films such as "A Room With A View" and "Howards End," died Wednesday. He was 68.
Merchant died surrounded by family and friends at a hospital in London, Merchant Ivory Productions said.
Merchant, who was born in Bombay but spent most of his life in the West, had been unwell for some time and recently underwent surgery for abdominal ulcers, according to Indian television reports.
Merchant and Ivory, an American, made some 40 films together and won six Oscars since forming their famous partnership in 1961 with German-born screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala.
Their hits especially E.M. Forster adaptations like "A Room With a View" and "Howards End" helped revive the public's taste for well-made, emotionally literate period drama.
In an interview with The Associated Press last year, Merchant said Merchant-Ivory films worked because they captured great stories.
"It should be a good story speak about a time and place that is permanent," he said. "It should capture something wonderful with some great characters whether it's set in the past or in the future."
Merchant generally served as producer, the business mind behind the collaboration, while Ivory directed.
Merchant first traveled to the United States in 1958 to study for a business degree at New York University.
He met Ivory in a New York City coffee shop in 1961. Their first film together, "The Householder," was based on a novel by Prawer Jhabvala, and its 1963 premiere was held at the residence of then-U.S. Ambassador to India John Kenneth Galbraith.
"When we first began, Ruth told us she had never written a screenplay," Merchant told AP. "That was not a problem since I had never produced a feature film and Jim had never directed one."
Merchant and Ivory departed in recent years from the flawlessly appointed period films for which they were famous.
They offered their take on French farce in 2003 with "Le Divorce," starring Kate Hudson and Naomi Watts.
They also were at work on "The Goddess," a musical about the Hindu goddess Shakti, starring a singing, dancing Tina Turner. Also to be released is "The White Countess," a period drama set in China and starring Ralph Fiennes, Vanessa Redgrave and Natasha Richardson.
On a trip home once, White Oleander was the in-flight movie. Not the movie you want to play when there is no chance for escape. It was all that the flight attendants could do to avoid mass suicides. ;-)
Yep, that was another of theirs.
There we were in the darkened movie "palace" watching "Howard's End" .... I was so bored.... that when that cabinet fell on that guy.... I laughed. Sorry but I just couldn't help it. Then, to add injury to insult/boredom... my wife then puched me in the side( OUCH).
I helped Mr. Merchant once when I worked at Tiffany's in NYC. He told me to charge the purchase to his corporate account and when I pulled out his Merchant/Ivory Productions corporate account file, I asked him which one are you? Merchant or Ivory? I never thought he'd be either one of the big two but he said Merchant and and laughed. I think he was even wearing a hat. He was a real gentleman. He was pretty old back then and it had to be eight years ago.
They made some good films, there is room in Hollywood for a few films that don't have car chases, buddy buddy cop films, an extended 20 minute rap sequence, products tied in with every fast food merchant, monosyllabic dialog, things getting "blown up" everywhere, remakes of unoriginal films, sequels to crappy films, and Julia Robberts chickflicks that have the exact same plot every time.
I guess his crime was that he made films that didn't appeal to the hyperactive 14 year old boy market that everything seems to be aimed at these days.
I have seen most of his movies and I HAVE read the books. I will miss him, may he rest in peace.
I would have punctured my eyeballs with my own fingers rather than watch that.
Nah - his crime was that he made movies out of unreadable books. (What can I say? I'm just not a fan of turn-of-the-century literature.)
Making boring movies out of boring books isn't a crime, but not enough to qualify one for Great Auteur status.
Its summer, I get grumpy because all the films are of the Bruckheimer variety, crashes, shootouts, sappy dialog and general dreck.
Thank god for DVD's and the Independent Film Channel.
They sure did. One of my favorite films. Fantastic performances by Emma Thompson and Anthony Hopkins (who absolutely got robbed at Oscar time - his performance was incomparably better than Tom Hanks' in "Philadelphia").
Yet another movie in which periods of intense boredom were occasionally interrupted by idiotic dialogue.
Hmm... It's true that nothing blew up. No one took their clothes off. There were no chases with guns blaring. I suppose some would consider that boring...
I'm going to quote Roger Ebert's review because I think he put it very well:
"The Remains of the Day" is a subtle, thoughtful movie. There are emotional upheavals in it, but they take place in shadows and corners, in secret. It tells a very sad story - three stories, really. Not long ago I praised a somewhat similar film, Martin Scorsese's "The Age of Innocence," also about characters who place duty and position above the needs of the heart. I got some letters from readers who complained the movie was boring, that "nothing happens in it." To which I was tempted to reply: If you had understood what happened in it, it would not have been boring. "
I liked Remains of the Day as well. To each his own. "Boredom" is such a subjective thing it is, by itself, practically useless as criticism.
I disagree. Those are both excellent films.
If not for the free booze and impromptu, risque dances of the flight attendants, it would have been ugly.
I agree. Not only were Merchant/Ivory flicks (I refuse to call them "films") stultifyingly boring, they were pretentious and artsy-fartsy. Vaguely Marxist, too, IIRC.
Oddly, the last movie I saw that I thought was any good was a FRENCH flick called Look at Me.
I'm not a foreign-flick snob and I normally detest anything Frrrennnnch, but "Look at Me" was one funny, intelligent, unpretentious and REAL movie.
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