A Room with a View (1985)

There's nothing quite subtle about James Ivory's "A Room with a View". It's a quintessential "British" movie, so much so that comedians like Eddie Izzard have mocked the piece for being the marker for which all Americans measure British culture. It's hard to not be charmed by the upper class semantics and romances, the small gestures and letter writing and world traveling. It's simply charming, and yet, somewhere beneath the petticoats and the hoop dresses and the parasols, there is a quite a sensual nature to the piece.
For the first half of "A Room with a View", I was unimpressed with its trajectory. It seemed to just be flirting around the lives of the privileged, which is fine enough, but there's only so much voyeuristic jealousy that I can handle on a daily basis. Lucy (Helena Bonham Carter) and her cousin Charlotte (Maggie Smith) are visiting Florence. There, they find a plethora of interesting people and among them are an odd familial couple: father and son. The Emersons (Denholm Elliott and Julian Sands) are vacationing in Italy. Ever the eavesdropper, Mr. Emerson hears Charlotte complaining to Lucy that they failed to acquire a room with a view in the hotel they are staying at. He swiftly volunteers to switch rooms with the ladies so that they can view Florence in its beauty.
So begins an illustrious painting. Because that's what the movie is: more art of the eyes than of the brain. Its plot is so simplistic and often derived that it becomes difficult to take seriously. Yet, the landscape of Italy, the disposition of chastity, and the undeniable eroticism to the piece make up for the lack of originality or interesting conventions.
Ivory is a good storyteller, he doesn't have any spectacular way of twisting the movie to make it more compelling, but sometimes this basic approach works. Lucy and George Emerson seem destined to be together, since they obviously have a chemistry. Every time they pass in the hallways, the camera notes how their bodies shift and drift towards each other. The sexual tension is palpable. But some people are born to cock block and at the littlest provocation, Charlotte decides that it's time to curtain the adventure and return home.
So they come back and immediately Lucy is proposed to by Cecil (Daniel Day-Lewis), a man of books and little knowledge on how to pleasure a woman. After all, we're being taught that making out is more fun than being intellectual. And to a certain extent, I think I'd agree. I mean, I'd rather have been making out through "A Room with a View". But that's not the point.
The point is that the movie is a sexual awakening for Lucy. Two hours of her realizing what and how she wants to be taken care of and if you think I'm reading too much into this, one moment in Florence in which she witnesses a street fight seems to prove my opinions. Let's just say there isn't that much phallic imagery in "The Exorcist". It's pretty ridiculous.
Okay, my snob is showing.
The camera captures the beauty of Italy and the wealth of the upper class effortlessly. Although I'm a great fan of Helena Bonham Carter, this is not one of her finest moments. Julian Sands, when he's not reciting his motto in the tops of trees, is undeniably sexy.
I guess the biggest takeaway from the movie is that, underneath all the graces and facades, there is a surprising amount of full-frontal nudity. But always with class.

Score: ★★★

1 comment:

  1. I like this one, too, Micah, and you are right on about the sexual undertones and overtones. Something I love about merchant and Ivory films of the 1980s. My favorite, though, is Maurice, the gay love story from the E.M. Forster novel.