Friday, September 1, 2017

Blu-ray debut and 30th Anniversary celebration for the Merchant/Ivory adaptation of E.M. Forster's posthumously-published MAURICE

So fine in so many ways that, as much of a landmark as it was back in 1987 at the time of its initial theatrical release, MAURICE -- the James Ivory/ Ismail Merchant adaptation of E. M. Forster's famous and posthumously-published novel -- seems today, thirty years later, all that and more. From its opening scene, in which an older man explains to a young schoolboy the vagaries of sexual union, to its twin love stories, with its eponymous hero involved in each, the movie teems with life, love and pulsating-but-buried desire.

Mr. Ivory (shown at left, on the set of the film) directed and co-wrote (with Kit Hesketh-Harvey) the screenplay and brought his usual deep understanding, empathy and technical skill to both.

His movie captures early 1900s Britain, with its entitled, tawdry barriers of class and even manages quite well to differentiate between the classes, including the very wealthy and the merely well-to-do. The period details are close to perfection, and the acting -- from the smallest roles to the film's three leads -- could hardly be bettered.

TrustMovies recalls being shocked (but pleased) three decades back by the movie's frankness concerning homosexuality, as well as the full-frontal shots of two of the three leads. Today, all this is often-enough seen, and yet the film still seems both bold and believable in its handling of matters sexual. More important it delves beneath the surface to get at the difficulties Britain had in coming to terms with honest and encompassing sexuality.

James Wilby (above) plays the title role, and what makes his performance resonate so strongly still is his ability to show us Maurice's entitlement and fear, as well as his desire and very genuine love -- first for his University mate, Clive (a superb Hugh Grant, below), and later for Clive's gamekeeper, Alec Scudder (a boyish, buoyant Rupert Graves, two photos below).

These three expert performances ground the movie, while showing us two approaches to one's homosexuality (both closeted, which was necessary at the time due to that behavior's being a crime worthy of imprisonment in Britain): acceptance and learning to deal with it, or rejection and its accompanying repression.

The movie (as did the novel, too) opts for a happy ending that we can not help but realize is most likely fantasy. How will the new relationship between these two men (from such different classes) survive? It probably will not. But they will at least give it a try. And that, given the time and place in which the film is set, is as much as anyone could ask.

Maurice remains one of if not the best gay film ever made. Yet to call it simply that hardly does the movie justice. Under any label you'd care to apply, this is a thoughtful, moving, provocative and, yes, great piece of filmmaking.

The new Blu-ray, DVD and digital platform debut -- from the Cohen Film Collection -- arrives this coming Tuesday, September 5. In addition to the film itself, the DVD includes a new Q&A with Mr. Ivory and cinematographer Pierre Lhomme, The Story of Maurice, and two theatrical trailers (the original from 1987 and the more recent 2017 version). The two-disc Blu-ray set has all of these plus a further discussion by Lhomme and Ivory about the making of the movie, a new conversation between Ivory and filmmaker Tom McCarthy, a conversation with the filmmakers, and deleted scenes and alternate takes with audio commentary by Ivory. 

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