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The City Of Your Final Destination (2007)

April 29th, 2010 by Anne Richardson · No Comments · 2000's, James Ivory, Oregon director, Oregon film, Oregon film new definition, Videos

Held up by legal tangles for three years, James Ivory’s 32nd feature film opened earlier this month.

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The City of Your Final Destination, based on the novel by Peter Cameron, assembles many of the cherished Merchant Ivory values: meticulous writing by the Oscar-winning Ruth Prawer Jhabvala; an expertly drawn cast headed by Merchant Ivory favorite Anthony Hopkins; a languid and literary pace that elevates viewers without ever compromising their intelligence; gorgeous cinematography and art direction; and a cinematic elegance as rare in contemporary films as genuine wit. This is a typical James Ivory work, but more deeply wounding and emotionally involving than most. I was transfixed from beginning to end. Rex Reed

I was too.

The sequence I saw had three strong female performances, which is more than Hollywood usually produces in an entire award season. The film belongs to Laura Linney, who plays a widow who paints, drinks, and fights with her gay brother-in-law (Anthony Hopkins) all the while sharing his home, along with his lover (Hiroyuki Sanada) and her late husband’s mistress (Charlotte Gainsbourg). A young man (Omar Metwally) enters the equation, and the power plays begin.

The conflicts between brother and sister-in-law, widow and the young man, the young man and the brother  – all taking place while the young man was falling in love with the mistress–this quadrangle of conflict would have made a great film without the entry of the fifth character, the young man’s girlfriend, but it is that character which elevated the sequence I saw to genius.

Alexandra Maria Lara plays the young man’s girlfriend, who arrives late on the scene, sees events sprawling out of control, and attempts to step into her boyfriend’s shoes and accomplish his original mission. She is focused, practical and completely out of touch with reality.  Her boyfriend is hopelessly in love with a woman he just met, but she is undeterred.

I have never seen this character on screen before. Ivory is sympathetic to her, while at the same time he thinks she is profoundly absurd — a directorial feat he also pulled off in the character played by Daniel Day Lewis in Room With A View.

This version of Midsummer’s Night Dream takes place in Uruguay.

James Ivory’s and Ruth Prawer Jhabvala’s creative partnership has produced a steady stream of wonderful female performances. The most famous: Helena Bonham Carter and Maggie Smith in Room With A View,  Joanne Woodward  in Mr. and Mrs. Bridge and Emma Thompson in Howard’s End and The Remains Of The Day.

Here’s some more: Felicity Kendal in Shakespeare Wallah, Jennifer Kendal in Bombay Talkie,  Aparna Sen and Peggy Ashcroft in Hullabaloo Over Georgie and Bonnie’s Pictures,  Isabelle Adjani in Quartet, Mary Beth Hurt in The 5:48, Julie Christie in Heat and Dust, Vanessa Redgrave in The Bostonians, Bernadette Peters in Slaves of New York, on and on.

Today’s papers carry news of Belgium’s ban on burqas. “It is necessary that the law forbids the wearing of clothes that totally mask and enclose an individual. Wearing the burqa in public is not compatible with an open, liberal, tolerant society” said  Daniel Bacquelaine, a member of the Reformist Movement party and a Belgium parlimentarian. “If we want to live together in a free society, we need to recognize each other.”

It has been standard practice in Hollywood screenwriting to issue virtual burqas to female characters, sanding down rough edges, forcing characters into conformity with what is perceived will sell the most tickets. James Ivory’s entire career stands in defiance on this practice.

I hereby claim The City Of Your Final Destination as an Oregon film, based on James Ivory’s contribution as director.

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