Review: ‘Quartet’

Quartet is an elegant tale of a pretty, innocent but resilient woman set in the Paris of the late 1920s. Director James Ivory takes his usual aloofly observant distance and the film's love triangle loses some drastic impetus. The seething Paris bohemian backdrop of the era is used only in a token way.

Quartet is an elegant tale of a pretty, innocent but resilient woman set in the Paris of the late 1920s. Director James Ivory takes his usual aloofly observant distance and the film’s love triangle loses some drastic impetus. The seething Paris bohemian backdrop of the era is used only in a token way.

Isabelle Adjani is married to a young Pole who, arrested when he gets mixed up in nefarious art dealings, is sentenced to a year in prison.

She is left alone and penniless. A noted English agent, played by Alan Bates with massive solemnity, had taken a shine to her after meeting her in the expatriate circles of Paris residents. He asks her to move in with him and his wife.

The latter is an edgy, middle-aged painter limned with asperity by Maggie Smith. Other girls had stayed there and she indulged her husband’s sensuality to keep him. Adjani at first spurns Bates’s advances but gives in though she still loves her husband.

Overall, a lowkey film. Based on Jean Rhys’ book, the script uses her spare style.

Quartet

UK - France

Production

Merchant Ivory/Lyric. Director James Ivory; Producer Ismael Merchant, Jean-Pierre Mahot de la Querantonnais; Screenplay Ruth Prawer Jhabvala; Camera Pierre Lhomme; Editor Humphrey Dixon; Music Richard Robbins; Art Director Jean-Jaques Caziot

Crew

(Color) Available on VHS. Extract of a review from 1981. Running time: 100 MIN.

With

Alan Bates Maggie Smith Isabelle Adjani Anthony Higgins Suzanne Flon Pierre Clementi
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