The Michigan Daily - Weekend etc. - September 17, 1992 - Page 5
At last, a
by Aaron Hamburger
Ask typical film students who their
favorite director is, and you're likely
to hearnames such as Martin Scorsese,
Spike Lee, and Gus Van Sant Jr.
You're not likely to hear the names
Ismail Merchant and James Ivory, a
producing and directing duo that have
quietly produced a body of work that
represents several of the great films of
the past ten years, including "A Room
with a View," "Mr. and Mrs. Bridge,"
and their current film, "Howards End."
One reason the Merchant Ivory
team is not as well known as "names
like Woody Allen, for example, is
that they are elitists in the best sense
of the word. While directors like
Scorsese and Lee rely on violence and
stylized camera angles to make their
points, the Merchant Ivory team uses
* subtle but expressive camera work
and language to accomplish their ends.
In fact, they are often so subtle that
their films invite several viewings,
and critics who often miss their point
have dubbed them the "Masterpiece
Theatre" of movies.
Merchant Ivory tends to film ad-
aptations by renowned British novel-
ist Ruth Prawer Jhabvala of novels by
authors like Henry James and E. M.
Forster, and goes heavy on British
accents and prestigious actors like
Anthony Hopkins, VanessaRedgrave,
and Maggie Smith. Their films ad-
dress the question: what happens to
the natural instincts of sexuality and
passion in civilized society?
In the case of Vannessa Redgrave's
Olive in "The Bostonians" (1984)'
Olive channels her "impure" love for
another woman (Madeleine Potter)
into becoming a militant feminist at
the turn of the century. Redgrave sug-
gests all the layers of hurt and repres-
Dump Mike and go with Siren
Continued from page 2
thermorefrugal gourmets will want
to stick to the sandwiches; many sal-
ads, like the shrimp and tortellini in
pesto sauce, cost well over $10.00 per
Amer's puts a slightly different
slant on the Mid-Eastern items. The
falafels are stuffed in a pita rather than
being wrapped by one, and the myste-
rious "vegetable hamburger," the key
constituent of falafels, is crunchier
than at other Mid-Eastern restaurants.
The Baba Ghannouj and Tabbouli are
slightly tangier than normally ex-
pected, but the baklava has just the
right combination of honey and flake.
The decor at Amer's is the same
combination of black and white tile,
lacquered wood, exposed brick, and
colorful art that one can find in any
Williams-Sonoma, Crate and Barrel,
Merchant of Vino, or Gloria Jean's.
Come to think of it, the people are the
same too. Not that Amer's hosts a
modish crowd, but it gets busier be-
gan Theater. The restaurant's earlier-
and later-than-usual hours (7:30a.m.-
night weekdays) are a definite plus if
you and your date just want an "ice
capp" after a concert or movie.
The service is uneven as is typical
with new restaurants. If you complain
about a lack of vanilla in your vanilla
latte, they might add more, give you a
new one, orask you what planet you're
from depending on who's working.
The system where they call your name
to bring out your order can get annoy-
ing at times. If you happen to be
blessed with an unoriginal name like
Mike, Jenny, or John, it might be
better to declare that you're Soren,
Indigo, or Wolfgang during the busy
Most of the new cafes in Ann
Arbor are identical. The same food
and drink is offered in the same atmo-
sphere to the same crowd at the same
price. Amer's distinctive combina-
tion of cafe and deli makes it worth
trying. If any of the new restaurants
becomes a mainstay in the city, it will
be this one.
Amer's Mediterranean Deli
312 S. State St.
When to go: After Marcel Marceau
Live at the Power Center.
Who to bring: That special someone
from your cultural studies class.
What to talk about: Definitely not
why you volunteered for Pat
What to wear: Ditch the Spring Break
'92 Daytona Beach t-shirt.
How to eat: Legs crossed and awl
Ivory and Merchant (yes, the real people) consult with Vanessa Redgrave.
a hearty beef stew covered
with mashed potatoes and
served with homemade
sion that lie underneath her iron exte-
rior. The film is visually stunning,
particularly a memorable sequence
shot on the Long Island shore.
"A Room with a View" (1986),
probably the best known Merchant
Ivory film, is also their funniest. The
plot of this comedy of manners, a
young girl's trip to Florence awakens
the sensual side of a young woman
named Lucy Honeychurch (Helena
Bonham Carter), who is tied between
the man she loves (Julian Sands) and
her dim-witted fiancee (Daniel Day-
Lewis, in one of his early perfor-
mances). The film, however, also has
dark undertones, especially in Daniel
Day-Lewis's performance. He clev-
erly plays up the caricaturistic side of
his character until his final scene,
when he proves incapable of reveal-
ing the depth of his feeling for Lucy.
Merchant Ivory returned to the
theme of repressed homosexuality in
their adaptation of E. M. Forester's
posthumously published novel,
"Maurice" (1987). James Wilby plays
the title role, a young gay man who
struggles to find fulfillment in
Edwardian England, when homosexu-
ality was a crime punishable by life
imprisonment. Part of the pleasure of
the film is letting your eye roam the
incredible setdecoration which recre-
ates pre-World War I England.
From the glamorous settings of
Florence and London, Merchant Ivory
traveled to mundane Kansas City of
the 1930's with their next film "Mr.
and Mrs. Bridge," the story of an All-
American family whose lives are about
as passionate as a can of tuna fish.
This film, my favorite of 1990, con-
sists of a series of amusing vignettes
which seem to do little more than
detail the squeamishness of the title
characters (expertly played by Paul
Newman and Joanne Woodward).
At the heart of the film, however,
is an examination of how stubbornly
and in some cases, tragically, Ameri-
can middle class values refuse to gibe
with human nature. Hey that's David
Lynch turf! Only Merchant Ivory
manages to communicate the same
themes as Lynch by just telling agood
story without resorting to stylish tricks.
Now that "Howards End" is a hit,
suddenly Hollywood has come court-
ing with financing for the next Mer-
chant Ivory film, an original screen-
play titled "Jefferson in Paris," and a
Mike Nichols production (to be di-
rected by Ivory with many of the cast
members from "HowardsEnd"), "Re-
mains of the Day." The question is not
why Hollywood has finally recog-
nized the talent of these filmmakers,
but what took them so long?
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1 You are invited to the
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is Meet your student friends,
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