The reworked 'Howards End' looks and sounds wonderful! What was the restoration of the film like, were there trouble spots? Ivory: It was a film that was shot on film, about twenty years ago, and now in order to do a digital remastering of the film so it could be projected in all kinds of places and of course to make the DVD and all that, they had to remaster it, working from the original film negative.
Only at the end when they told me Tony Pierce-Roberts and Steve Boardman were grading it for color, in London, at that point I was with them, really working together. Is there a reason why now? Ivory: Cohen Media has acquired the film and they wanted to bring it up to modern modes of seeing films, they had to. They would do that with any film that they acquired.
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What do you think of the world today and how does 'Howards End' fit into that world? And one of the basic problems is honesty and living an honest life. Living a life that is not corrupted by all sorts of influences like social class and all of that. But a life where you really follow your emotions, follow your truest beliefs and you try to live an honest life.
These are not new problems, they are enduring problems of life today everywhere, I feel. Do you believe in the power of cinema to change the world, to make it somehow better? Ivory: It can, if the intention in making a film is a positive one. You know, to truly show real human emotions and people in real situations everywhere, no matter where it is in the world. Cinema is a great instructive way of telling stories and it has changed the world.
The same way that the printing press changed the world.
In Conversation with James Ivory
And film, more perhaps with documentaries, even makes a headline a human reality, so we connect with that story. Ivory: Absolutely! I suggested his cartoon would be remembered long after his films had been forgotten. Though he does seem able to take a joke, Ivory has always been regarded as less clubbable than his late producer.
The Indian, a skilled chef and cheery raconteur, was always ready with the glad hand, while Ivory, it is said, is harder to draw out.
They had a shared vision, but they were really like chalk and cheese. James Ivory was born in Berkeley, California, on June 7th, , but grew up in Oregon, where his father ran a sawmill. Unimpressed by the theoretical bias of USC's film studies course, Ivory set about teaching himself how to be a documentarist.
He first made a film about Venice and then, in , The Sword and the Flute , a study of ancient Indian artifacts. It was at a screening of the film in New York that Ivory first met Merchant.
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When you are young you don't realise what you don't know. I had no idea how to direct actors and so on. It is arresting to note the variety of the multiracial team's work before they took up adapting the classics with their film of Henry James's The Europeans. Initially, availing of box- office takings that American studios, hampered by currency restrictions, were unable to extract from India, Merchant and Ivory focused their attentions on the sub-continent.
Films such as Shakespeare Wallah and Bombay Talkie remain interesting today. Decades before the emergence of Miramax signalled a supposed boom in independent cinema, Merchant and Ivory were showing how it was possible to function outside the control of the big studios. I was making films when they were in high school. So it is a little irritating to read those reports. Intriguing as the avant-garde Savages and the moving Roseland were, Merchant Ivory will forever be synonymous with Henry James, EM Forster, bustles, Helena Bonham Carter, cornices, carriages and lashings of coiled emotional repression.
They are the films that got seen by the most people.
James Ivory in conversation : how Merchant Ivory makes its movies
They were the films most likely to get nominated for Oscars, and so on. Henceforth Merchant Ivory became a recognisable brand. Like Coke. Or Habitat.
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Or Laura Ashley. We took a very small amount of money and created this huge hit that was highly praised and got eight Oscar nominations. So we obviously knew how to do something. It gave birth to that series of films up to Howards End. Ivory did make a few detours into the contemporary, but the results were rarely satisfactory. Even those genetically indisposed to period drama would surely still prefer to sit through Howards End than the terrible Slaves of New York or the confused Le Divorce. The White Countess , which is the last film made by the two old friends, might be regarded as hybrid between classic Merchant Ivory and their less typical work.
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