the review site with a difference since 1999
Reviews Interviews Articles Apps About

Merchant Ivory Productions presents

Hullabaloo Over Georgie and Bonnie's Pictures (1978)

Shri Narain: But Lady Gee, why should it not remain here in India?
Lady Gee: The climate has never suited these precious objects. It's always been our duty to take them away.- Saeed Jaffrey, Peggy Ashcroft

Stars: Peggy Ashcroft, Larry Pine, Saeed Jaffrey, Victor Banerjee, Aparna Sen, Jane Booker
Director: James Ivory

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (brief sexual situation)
Run Time: 01h:23m:11s
Release Date: 2004-06-22
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C+ BCC- C-


DVD Review

With a name like Hullabaloo Over Georgie's and Bonnie's Pictures, you might imagine that a movie's going to take a fairly sardonic look at its subject, and in this case you'd be right. The "pictures" in question are a group of fabulously rare and exquisite Indian paintings known as the Tasveer Collection, owned by Georgie (Victor Banerjee) and Bonnie (Aparna Sen, who also appeared in director Ivory's Bombay Talkie). They're actually Indian royalty, the Maharaja of Timarpur and his sister the Maharani, given their nicknames many years ago by a Scottish nanny. And the "hullabaloo?" Well, anyone who has ever suffered from/enjoyed a mania for collecting and experienced the overwhelming desire to add to their collection will understand what the fuss is about, while others will look on in bewildered amusement.

Georgie has a great appreciation for historical items and wants to hold on to the paintings, as does Shri Narain (Saeed Jaffrey), who's in charge of the palace museum. Bonnie, on the other hand, is more interested in their monetary value. She'd be happy to sell the paintings to Clark Haven (Larry Pine), a long-time collector of Indian art, but Georgie won't budge. Nor is he swayed by the arguments of Lady Gwyneth McLaren-Pugh a.k.a Lady Gee (Peggy Ashcroft), who wants the pictures for her museum back in London. She and her companion Lynn (Jane Booker) have traveled overland in a van all the way from England just to see the pictures, but Georgie remains unimpressed. In the face of Georgie's intransigence, and desperate to preserve the paintings before they can decay further, Haven, Lady Gee and Bonnie join forces, but Georgie himself has a few tricks up his sleeve.

Much of the amusement of the movie arises from the games of shifting allegiances and rivalries that the characters play, all of them manipulating others, while perfectly aware that they're being manipulated themselves. Both Lady Gee and Haven attempt to use their personal connections to Georgie, Lady Gee tries to use Georgie's obvious attraction to Lynn, and Shri Narain plays off both sides. And it's not only the characters that are being manipulated—the audience is too, in a plot twist that's as amusing as it is unexpected.

Made in 1975 for British television, the film is surprisingly interesting. Although the script wasn't completed when shooting began, and some scenes are improvised, the plot machinations hang together surprisingly well, and director James Ivory keeps things moving along at a good clip. Ivory and cinematographer Walter Lassally make the most of the architecturally impressive Umaid Bhavan Palace and other locations to create a film that's visually varied, and the inclusion of lengthy close-ups of the paintings adds a certain pictorial beauty to the film. There's a bit of culture clash at play—a tennis-playing maharaja and Indian children singing Jingle Bells—but it seems a result of the natural intermingling of English and Indian cultures, and not forced or artificial exaggerated for the movie. This film may come as a surprise to those more familiar with Ivory and producer/partner Ismail Merchant's more well-known works (such as A Room with a View and Howard's End), but it's engaging, interesting for its glimpses of Indian culture, and worth a look.

Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Taken from a 16mm print, the full-frame image is certainly nothing to write home about. As expected, it's grainy and fairly soft, but the black levels are never good, and there's little to no shadow detail. Colors are often too bright, even over-saturated in many scenes. Never does the image rise above the level of acceptable.

Image Transfer Grade: C

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The mono sound isn't much better than the image. Voices are often filled with echoes, although this is clearly a fault of the original recording in the hard-surfaced palace. Occasionally they are mixed too low, and as a result difficult to understand. This reviewer found himself resorting to the English subtitles fairly often in order to clarify the dialogue.

Audio Transfer Grade: C- 

Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Packaging: Keep Case
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Hullabaloo Over Billy Fish: An Interview with Saeed Jaffrey
  2. 8-page printed insert
Extras Review: In the 7m:42s Hullabaloo Over Billy Fish: An Interview with Saeed Jaffrey, the actor talks about his international success after The Man Who Would Be King, comments on the script and his fellow actors in Hullabaloo Over Georgie's and Bonnie's Pictures, and reveals a fascinating link between American director John Huston and renowned Indian director Satyajit Ray. Ismail Merchant joins him to contribute brief comments about Hullabaloo.

Robert Emmet Long contributes a couple of pages of interesting notes in the printed insert, but these contain spoilers and are best read after watching the film.

Extras Grade: C-

Final Comments

The producer/director team of Merchant and Ivory team up with their usual screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala to create an engaging cross-cultural film that examines the insatiable hunger of the obsessive collector. It's a shame that the substandard transfer, taken from a 16mm print, isn't better, since its poor quality distracts from the viewing experience.

Robert Edwards 2004-06-23