Roseland is made up of three stories, sometimes connecting, all set in the famed New York dance palace, and all having the same theme: finding the right dance partner. In The Waltz a widow (Teresa Wright) dreams incessantly of her departed husband, imagining his younger self in the Ballroom mirrors, still whirling her over the dance floor. Lou Jacobi, a rough diamond type, brings her to her senses and becomes her new -- and permanent -- partner. In The Hustle three women (Geraldine Chaplin, Helen Gallagher, and Joan Copeland) are all in love -- and dancing -- with the same handsome young man (Christopher Walken), who manages with considerable aplomb for a time to juggle the demands of each. One must call him a gigolo, but he is a gigolo with a code of honor and some principles. The Peabody, the final story, is about the irrepressible, energetic, and ever-hopeful Rosa (Lilia Skala), a Viennese refugee who dreams of winning the Peabody contest. She enlists David Thomas as her co-contestant, but he is poor material -- he has no rhythm -- and in the end she has to give up, whereupon she is caught up in the arms of the dance partner of her dreams.
Roseland (1977) is the first Merchant Ivory film with a contemporary American story, though not the company's first American film.Savages (1972), an absurdist fantasy set in the Stone Age, was actually located in Westchester County, while The Wild Party (1975) was set in pre-Depression Hollywood. All three films depict an enclosed, sealed-in world where time seems to stand still, or is kept out. The abandoned, overgrown estate in Savages; The Wild Party's extravagant California mansion; and Roseland's ballroom with its rosy, enhancing tints and dreamy music: each is a small, self-contained universe.
The traditional bildungsroman, or novel of education, ends with a marriage. E.M. Forster's Maurice(1914), the second of his novels to be adapted by Merchant Ivory, takes on a subject that no major novel in the genre had ever addressed: the problem of coming of age as a homosexual in a restrictive society. First published in 1971, after Forster's death, and long neglected by critics, it is only recently (and largely since the release of the film adaptation) that critics have come to set Mauricein its unique place among "Reader, I married him" narratives.Starring James Wilby (Maurice) and Hugh Grant (Clive) as two Cambridge undergraduates who fall in love, the film is set amidst the hypocritical homoerotic subculture of the English university in Forster's time. In an environment in which any reference to " the unspeakable vice of the Greeks" is omitted, and any overture toward a physical relationship between men might be punishable by law, Maurice and Clive struggle to come to terms with their own feelings toward each other and toward a repressive society.
Maurice was shot on location largely in the halls and quadrangles of King's College, Cambridge (including stunning interiors in the college's world famous Gothic chapel), where Forster was educated and later returned as a Fellow. The other interiors were primarily shot at Wilbury Park, an early Palladian house in Wilshire. Called Pendersleigh in the film, this setting is where Maurice visits his friend Clive; here he later meets the under-gamekeeper Alec Scudder (Rupert Graves), who climbs in his window one night in order to "share" with Maurice, as the genteel Edwardians put it. Wilbury Park was a warm-up for Ivory for the grand country house scenes in The Remains of the Day, shot six years later.
Wilby, under Ivory's direction, infuses the title character with a quiet sensitivity and an underlying sense of desperation to create a character who, as Forster wrote, has "an ingredient that puzzles him, wakes him up, torments him and finally saves him." Grant plays Clive with a blend of dead-on English public school arrogance and intimate vulnerability that attracts, and then nearly destroys, Maurice.
Mark Tandy is the confident Cantabridgian Lord Risley, whose later conviction as a criminal "of the Oscar Wilde sort" changes the course of the film. Denholm Elliot, Simon Callow, and Ben Kingsley turn in strong performances as alternately well meaning and judgmental men who try and guide Maurice into a conventional married life.
The film had its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival in 1987, where Ivory was awarded a Silver Lion as Best Director, sharing the prize with Ermanno Olmi. James Wilby and Hugh Grant were jointly awarded Best Actor, and Richard Robbins received the prize for his music -- a subtle and richly atmospheric score that is one the most memorable features of Maurice.
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