While deploring the poverty of the people, Jefferson appreciated all the riches of French culture and civilization. It was his first time abroad, and in a way, he was the prototype of the American in Paris, extending his knowledge of the liberal arts and the new sciences, and savoring the refinements of the mind and of the senses that France had to offer. And what he acquired he brought back to America: it was in France that he seriously pursued the study of architecture and began to plan the great buildings that he later designed for his own state of Virginia. He also brought back to Monticello, his plantation home, other French acquisitions – literally, for he departed from France with 86 packing cases containing books, furniture, paintings, statuary, scientific and musical instruments, wine, cheeses, clocks, and even fruit trees to plant on his hilltop, his "little mountain."
In his personal life, too, he was profoundly affected by these years in Paris. A lonely widower, he entered into a love affair with a beautiful Anglo-Italian painter and musician, Maria Cosway. This must have been his first experience of an attachment in the European manner, with a highly sophisticated European woman of advanced ideas about love and marriage. At first, Jefferson pursued her enthusiastically – he may even have considered himself head over heels in love. But while she was prepared to give up everything for his sake, to abandon her husband and her country, he drew back - or something held him back. For he had other attachments, which turned out to be stronger and deeper: to his wife, at whose deathbed he had vowed never to marry again; and to his two daughters, especially the elder, Patsy, with whom he had a relationship more passionate and clinging than is usual between father and daughter.
While he was still exchanging letters and romantic sentiments with Maria Cosway, he was forming yet another, simpler attachment. His younger daughter, Polly, arrived in Paris, accompanied by her nurse, Sally Hemings. Sally was the sister of James Hemings, who was already in Paris learning French cuisine to bring home to the Monticello kitchen. They were among the slaves whom Jefferson had inherited from his father-in-law - who, incidentally, had fathered them on one of his mulatto women. Sally was thus Jefferson's wife's half-sister, and while her resemblance to his dead wife may have contributed to her attraction to him, she was also a very pretty girl, who belonged to him. She must have carried deep echoes of his plantation home in Virginia - and, after several years abroad, Jefferson was getting to be very homesick. He longed for his beloved Monticello, and he wanted his daughters to be there, so that they could grow up as proper American girls, and not as what he considered frivolous Frenchwomen. When President Washington offered him the post of Secretary of State, Jefferson accepted and prepared to sail home with his family.
But part of his family - James and Sally - were not prepared to return home. James had learned to appreciate being a free man in Paris, and he persuaded Sally that they should stay there and not return home to American bondage, for in France slavery was illegal. It was only when Jefferson promised that he would give James his freedom, and to Sally too, and to all her future children – she was already pregnant with Jefferson's child - that they consented to go with him. Sally never claimed her freedom. She remained with Jefferson at Monticello for the rest of his life, bearing him six children, all born into slavery.
Jefferson in Paris shows Jefferson as the man of his time, a father of American Independence, an upholder of 18th-century ideals of liberty and equality, an American abroad deeply imbibing from the fountains of European culture; and a Virginian slave-owner who, besides giving his country her Declaration of Independence, also gave her more slave children, thus carrying on a tradition that he himself prophesied would "produce convulsions" through all the future generations.
In the entracte between world wars, Stevens (Anthony Hopkins) is the perfect English butler at the estate of the politically-inclined Lord Darlington (James Fox). Stevens's obsessively dutiful, thoroughly unsentimental way of life is challenged with the arrival of the new housekeeper Miss Kenton (Emma Thompson), who is as spirited as she is capable. Stevens's myopic worldview, his unequivocal loyalty to his master, comes to blows with Miss Kenton's sense of moral outrage as Lord Darlington is made an unwitting Nazi pawn. While England wavers between "peace in our time" appeasement and war against Hitler, Darlington Hall becomes the fulcrum upon which the fate of the continent rests and Stevens, who has spent his adult life more concerned with attending to his master than with attending to his own personal happiness, begins to awaken to the possibility of a relationship with Miss Kenton.
Based on the 1989 Booker Prize winning novel by Kazuo Ishiguro. The Remains of the Day is told in a series of flashbacks as Stevens, near the end of his life, makes a trip across the English countryside for a meeting that he hopes might reconcile his past mistakes.
Hopkins received an Academy Award nomination for his subtle and penetrating portrayal of Stevens: in his tight shoulders and breathy hesitations, Hopkins discovers a deep humanity in a man who would leave his father's deathbed to wait on his master at a dinner gathering. His rapport with Thompson, who also received an Oscar nomination, creates some of the most iconic and psychologically charged romantic tension in recent film history. The supporting cast includes Hugh Grant as Lord Darlington's nephew, the enterprising journalist Cardinal; and Christopher Reeve as the American politician who tries to open the eyes of the English aristocracy to the imminent Nazi threat.
Ruth Prawer Jhabvala received an Oscar nomination for her transformation of Ishiguro's first-person narrative into a drama that preserves the ironies of Stevens's interior landscape while expanding the socio-political world he inhabits. Impeccably photographed by Tony Pierce-Roberts on location in four great English houses (principally at Badminton House in Avon and Powderham Castle in Devon), the film's lavash interiors are not only a visual flourish but a dramatic element: as the fate of the world is decided in its rooms, Darlington Hall becomes a catalogue of all European civilization, which hangs in the balance of the Nazi threat.
The senior reviewer of The New York Times called The Remains of the Day the "deepest, most heartbreakingly real of the many extraordinary films directed by James Ivory." Ivory won Director's Guild of America, Golden Globe, and Oscar nominations for his work. The film is pervaded with the air of something lost, both in the England of Stevens's road trip -- in pub chatter, in bedside photographs of the war dead -- and in the butler's missed opportunities. In an often--quoted scene, Stevens refuses to reveal to Miss Kenton the title of the book he is reading; persistent, she eventually peels his fingers away to find a sentimental love story. Stevens can only bring himself to say that he is reading it to increase his vocabulary. It is one of the cinema's most affecting portraits of solitude, regret, and the tragedy of what might have been.
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