Adapted from the 1928 autobiographical novel by Jean Rhys, Quartet is the story of a love quadrangle between a complicated young West Indian woman named Marya (played by Isabelle Adjani), her husband Stefan (Anthony Higgins), a manipulative English art patron named Heidler (Alan Bates), and his painter wife Lois (Maggie Smith). The film is set in the Golden Age of Paris, Hemingway’s “moveable feast” of cafe culture and extravagant nightlife, glitter and literati: yet underneath is the outline of something sinister beneath the polished brasses and brasseries.
When Marya’s husband is put in a Paris prison on charges of selling stolen art works, she is left indigent and is taken in by Heidler and his wife: the predatory Englishman (whose character Rhys bases on the novelist Ford Madox Ford) is quick to take advantage of the new living arrangement, and Marya finds herself in a stranglehold between husband and wife. Lovers alternately gravitate toward and are repelled by each other, now professing their love, now confessing their brutal indifference — all the while keeping up appearances. The film explores the vast territory between the “nice” and the “good,” between outward refinement and inner darkness: after one violent episode, Lois asks Marya not to speak of it to the Paris crowd. “Is that all you’re worried about?” demands an outraged Marya. “Yes,” Lois replies with icy candor, “as a matter of fact.” —Merchant Ivory Productions
Thanks to the content of his films, American director James Ivory has spent much of his long career being mistaken for an Englishman. Few filmmakers have been more closely associated with a particular type of genre than Ivory and his longtime collaborator, producer Ismail Merchant. The very mention of the hyphenate Merchant-Ivory effortlessly conjures up heavily stylized images of Edwardian England, replete with stiff upper lips, effete aristocrats, and young women confined by both corsets and repressed desire. However, although much of Ivory’s reputation has been built on his E.M. Forster-adapted period dramas, he has also earned considerable respect for the insightful examinations on the interplay of different cultures inherent in almost all of his work — particularly his earlier films about India — and his and Merchant’s ability to make quality films on a minimal budget.
Born in Berkeley, California, on June 7, 1928, Ivory grew up in Klamath Falls, Oregon, where his father… read more
the best ivory-merchant production/ although the sense of place and time is pitchperfect as usual, isabelle and maggie crush ivory's adaptation patterns with their subtly hysterical acting and turn the story of 20s literal decadence into something vague and individualistically scary with no universal message/in one word sublime
I enjoyed this picture more than Heat and Dust. But yet I could not seem to actually like the female character (lead)... I didn't understand why she put herself in such a position. Though, I do know that she didn't have much choice (with the lack of money that she had) but why go around and make things worst. With her false declaration of love to her estranged husband (and proving it was false around the end). But I guess it all came out of desperation, so in that part I know see it makes sense. All in all it is a very interesting film and I thought the ending was good (showing that she has put her self into another situation out of a desperate act into the hands of a stranger once again). James Ivory makes interesting films with interesting characters as proven in this picture.