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Image Entertainment presents
A Room With A View (1986)

"He's the sort who can't know anyone intimately, least of all a woman. He doesn't know what a woman is. He wants you as a possession, something to look at, like a painting or an ivory box. Something to own and to display. He doesn't want you to be real, and to think and to live. He doesn't love you."
- George Emerson (Julian Sands)

Review By: Jeff Ulmer   
Published: August 06, 2000

Stars: Helena Bonham Carter, Julian Sands, Daniel Day Lewis
Other Stars: Denholm Elliot, Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Simon Callow
Director: James Ivory

Manufacturer: WAMO
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (Nudity)
Run Time: 01h:56m:00s
Release Date: July 04, 2000
UPC: 014381917222
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A+ A+CB+ D-

DVD Review

For the production/direction team of Ismail Merchant and James Ivory, 1986's A Room With A View marked the first of three E.M. Forster adaptations they would bring to the screen, which also included Maurice (1987) and Howard's End (1992). It is a beautiful period piece of filmmaking based on an impeccable script by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala. Her Oscar®-winning screenplay takes a somewhat humorous look at young girl's social and emotional awakening in turn of the century Europe.

Upon their arrival in Florence, Italy, from England, Lucy Honeychurch (Helena Bonham Carter) and her chaperone Charlotte Bartlet (Maggie Smith) discover that their accomodations are not what they requested, which was a room with a view. When the subject is mentioned at the dinner table, a fellow English traveller, Mr. Emerson (Denholm Elliot) offers to trade the room he and his son George (Julian Sands) are occupying for the one shared by the two ladies. Although this offer is initially declined due to social considerations, with the mediation of their local parson (Simon Callow as Mr. Beebe), who also happened to be in Florence, the switch is made (although Charlotte insists on taking the bigger room, as it was "the young man's"). As their vacation progresses, Lucy and George strike up a rapport, which is climaxed when George, against all manners of the time, steals a kiss from her during a picnic outing. This event is witnessed by her chaperone, who quickly scuttles her out of the country and back to London, in fear of the scandal that will follow. Within no time Lucy is betrothed to a prim and proper Mr. Cecil Vyse (Daniel Day-Lewis), a man of no occupation, and one who deigns to live a life of leisure. While initially Lucy is happy enough with the arrangement, it lacks the passion she experienced in her brief encounter with the young Emerson. The events of Italy seem all but forgotten until Cecil recommends the Emersons as tenants of a local estate and George returns to her life.

Winner of three Academy Awards® (Art Direction-Set Decoration, Costumes and Screenplay based on another medium), with nominations for Best Picture, Director, Cinematography, Supporting Actor (Denholm Elliot) and Actress, the film had no shortage of recognition from the industry. As with other Merchant/Ivory productions including Howard's End and The Remains Of The Day, A Room With A View is filled with memorable performances from the entire cast. Each character is brilliantly developed by disclosing their personas without lengthy exposition—in most cases three lines have their characters established. Maggie Smith's Oscar®-nominated and Golden Globe winning portrayal of the proper chaperone is outstanding, as are the characterisations of young Lucy (Helena Bonham-Carter) and the uppity Cecil Vyse (embodied by Daniel Day-Lewis). Julian Sands, Denholm Elliot, Simon Callow and Judi Dench are no less deserving of praise. Tony Pierce-Roberts' cinematography is lush and rich, capturing the subtleties of pre-first World War Italian city life, and contrasting these with the earthen greenery of the English countryside. The locations and sets are meticulously dressed, and enhance the scenes with their understated atmosphere. This film takes a well deserved place amongst the best period dramas, and its witty humor does not go waste as we discover the foibles of class society and the power of love in the events that eventually unfold.

Rating for Style: A+
Rating for Substance: A+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: What a difference a year makes. Had this title been announced in 1999 I would have been happy that Image was releasing it over the film's parent studio CBS/Fox. This is not the case now, as we would have gotten a new anamorphic transfer instead of a non-anamorphic rehash from Image's last laserdisc effort had Fox been behind this release.

It is not just the lack of an anamorphic transfer that is the problem here, as the image on the laserdisc release was certainly serviceable. It was the decision to produce the disc using only a single layer, and thus higher compression, that I believe to be its major downfall. While the colors and black levels are exceptional on this DVD (compared to the slightly murky look on the LD), excess edge enhancement and a host of other video anomalies does not do justice to the cinematography. The worst offenders are compression problems, which manifest themselves in almost every outdoor scene—backgrounds jump around rather than moving fluidly; details, especially vertical lines go in and out of focus. In other scenes the shingles and wall treatments of buildings and interiors float around. We also have a high degree of aliasing in many scenes due to the over sharpening, some stairstepping, and occasional motion artifacts. Additionally there are many instances of chroma interference present. Weave problems in some scenes are exaggerated, as the image jumps left to right in a nauseating fashion. By contrast, the laser version looks softer but more natural, with no problems with background images.

Although this may be the best this film has looked on video on some levels, it is a far cry from how it should have been presented, and the laserdisc, despite having problems of its own, is actually more enjoyable to watch.

Image Transfer Grade: C


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The only real difference here from the previous laserdisc edition is a new 5.1 channel remix. Although it is somewhat more spacious than the ProLogic mix, it occasionally suffers from a vacuousness in the center channel, causing dialogue to be unanchored from the image. Frequency range and overall comprehension is fine, but the new mix is not a huge improvement over the old, which serves the film just as well.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 15 cues and remote access
Packaging: Snapper
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Aside from a brief bio/filmography of the Merchant/Ivory production team on the snapper case overleaf, there are no supplemental materials.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

A very difficult recommendation. The film is first rate, and sits in the upper eschelons of period pieces in terms of style and story. However, the wonderful imagery of this film is greatly depreciated by the number of compression artifacts present, which I found highly distracting, and which I also found surprising after the many exceptional Image releases I have seen. This film deserves far better, so on the basis of this fine film, I recommend it as a rental only.


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