James Ivory in Conversation
How Merchant Ivory Makes Its Movies
Publication Year: 2005
James Ivory on:
On the Merchant Ivory Jhabvala partnership:
"I've always said that Merchant Ivory is a bit like the U. S. Govenment; I'm the President, Ismail is the Congress, and Ruth is the Supreme Court. Though Ismail and I disagree sometimes, Ruth acts as a referee, or she and I may gang up on him, or vice versa. The main thing is, no one ever truly interferes in the area of work of the other."
On Shooting Mr. and Mrs. Bridge:
"Who told you we had long 18 hour days? We had a regular schedule, not at all rushed, worked regular hours and had regular two-day weekends, during which the crew shopped in the excellent malls of Kansas City, Paul Newman raced cars somewhere, unknown to us and the insurance company, and I lay on a couch reading The Remains of the Day."
On Jessica Tandy as Miss Birdseye in The Bostonians:
"Jessica Tandy was seventy-two or something, and she felt she had to 'play' being an old woman, to 'act' an old woman. Unfortunately, I'couldn't say to her, 'You don't have to 'act' this, just 'be,' that will be sufficient.' You can't tell the former Blanche Du Bois that she's an old woman now."
On Adapting E. M. Forster's novels
"His was a very pleasing voice, and it was easy to follow. Why turn his books into films unless you want to do that? But I suppose my voice was there, too; it was a kind of duet, you could say, and he provided the melody."
"If you see my Indian movies then you get some idea of what it was that attracted me about India and Indians...any explanation would sound lamer than the thing warrants. The mood was so great and overwhelming that any explanation of it would seem physically thin....I put all my feeling about India into several Indian films, and if you know those films and like them, you see from these films what it was that attracted me to India."
On whether he was influenced by Renoir in filming A Room with a View
"I was certainly not influenced by Renoir in that film. But if you put some good looking women in long white dresses in a field dotted with red poppies, andthey're holding parasols, then people will say, ‘Renoir.’"
On the Critics:
"I came to believe that to have a powerful enemy like Pauline Kael only made me stronger. You know, like a kind of voodoo. I wonder if it worked that way in those days for any of her other victims—Woody Allen, for instance, or Stanley Kubrick."
On Andy Warhol as a dinner guest:
"I met him many times over the last twenty years of his life, but I can't say I knew him, which is what most people say, even those who were his intimates. Once he came to dinner with a group of his Factory friends at my apartment. I remember that he or someone else left a dirty plate, with chicken bones and knife and fork, in my bathroom wash basin. It seemed to be a symbolic gesture, to be a matter of style, and not just bad manners."
Published by: University of California Press
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Title Page, Copyright
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There is a perfect Merchant Ivory moment midway through Quartet, theirménage-à-trois story set in Paris in the 1920s. Beautiful, hapless Marya Zellihas wandered into the orbit of a powerful and urbane English couple. WhileH. J. Heidler (Alan Bates) prepares to make the inevitable move on his house-guest (after all, she is played in alluring if desolate fashion by Isabelle Adjani),...
SETTING THE SCENE
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Robert Emmet Long: Merchant Ivory is known to be the independent film pro-duction team of the last few decades, achieving its success on its own, outsidethe Hollywood studio system—or maybe in defiance of it. But, in fact, whathas your experience with Hollywood been like? What sort of dealings have youJames Ivor y: There has been this idea—people have often spoken or written in...
THE EARLY YEARS
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Robert Emmet Long: Your films are cosmopolitan, urbane, but you were not acity boy, having been raised in the small town of Klamath Falls, in the timberJames Ivor y: Well, lots of American artists who have done all kinds of thingshave come from the most unlikely little American town; and have made theirtrek first from their little town to New York, and from New York to Europe,...
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Robert Emmet Long: Were there others in the United States and abroad makingdocumentaries like yours while you were at the USC film school in the earlyJames Ivor y: There weren’t that many, perhaps, but enough to make up a kindof subgenre. That was a time when people liked to make films about artistsand works of art. One of the attractions was that they didn’t cost much money...
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Robert Emmet Long: You had been to India, met Satyajit Ray, and shot your doc-umentary The Delhi Way, as well as your footage in Kabul. At that point, youJames Ivor y: I shot The Delhi Way and brought it back to New York to edit, andthen I decided that I really needed to do more work on it, that I hadn’t got all Iwanted—and at that point I met Ismail. I introduced him to some people here...
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Robert Emmet Long: Savages is an unusual film for you; the four Indian featurefilms that precede it are realistic works, while Savages seems like pure fantasy.Also, instead of having a single protagonist or pair of protagonists, you divideyour attention among a group of Mud People who then become civilizedIvor y: You can be touched by the decline of any group, or people, in history;...
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Robert Emmet Long: A Room with a View was nominated for eight Academy Awards,including Best Picture and Best Director, and enjoyed a phenomenal run in bothAmerica and abroad. Would you say that it was your most famous film?James Ivor y: It was—once. But now I suspect that The Remains of the Day isbetter known. A Room with a View came out sixteen years ago. A whole gener-...
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Robert Emmet Long: Most people who know and enjoy your films may not real-ize how many of them have been made in France. In fact, there are as many asthose you’ve shot in England. It can’t be all that easy to work in France if you’reJames Ivor y: Yes and no. The failure to have an exact understanding of thelanguage is a drawback for me sometimes; my French ought by now to be more...
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Numbers refer to pages; Merchant Ivor y Productions is abbreviated MIP.9 Tara Pada Banerjee; 11 James Ivory; 55 Van Bucher; 60 ©MIP/BBC; 71, 74 Subrata Mitra © MIP;80 Mitter Bedi; 81 James Ivory; 82 Subrata Mitra © MIP; 86, 89, 91 Douglass Webb ©MIP/ Twentieth Century Fox; 93 Studio Nataraj; 94 © MIP, courtesy of National FilmArchive/Stills Library; 104 © MIP; 108, 112, 115 Mary Ellen Mark © MIP; 111 Christopher Cor-...
Page Count: 350
Publication Year: 2005