A Room With a View (1985) short review

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Okay, romantic period filmmaking just doesn’t get any better than this.  A Merchant Ivory production of the E.M. Forster novel, with Helena Bonham Carter and a raft of immensely talented actors, fabulous scenery in England and Tuscany, and an intelligent romance.

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Kendra

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Kendra has been a fixture in the online costuming world since the late 1990s. Her website, Démodé Couture, is one of the most well-known online resources for historical costumers. In the summer of 2014, she published a book on 18th-century wig and hair styling. Kendra is a librarian at a university, specializing in history and fashion. She’s also an academic, with several articles on fashion history published in research journals.

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  1. Kristina

    I saw this film after viewing Howards End, and for a while I wasn’t sure whether I liked it very much or not. I now find it far more enjoyable than Howards End (although the latter is arguably a finer movie). Helena Bonham Carter’s performance might be a bit better in Howards End, but she does great work here playing an inexperienced, “muddled,” passionate young woman.

    Since this is a feminist site, I think it’s appropriate to discuss a few things about the second kiss between Lucy and George. In the book, the encounter happens like this:

    She led the way up the garden, Cecil following her, George last. She thought a disaster was averted. But when they entered the shrubbery it came. The book, as if it had not worked mischief enough, had been forgotten, and Cecil must go back for it; and George, who loved passionately, must blunder against her in the narrow path.
    “No—” she gasped, and, for the second time, was kissed by him.

    XV

    This scene is presented much the same way in the film, but instead of protesting George’s advances, as she does in the book, Lucy seems to be kind of… into them, I guess? She pushes him away only when she notices Cecil strolling obliviously toward them. I wonder if this minor change was made to keep the kiss from looking too much like a sexual assault. If so, I approve. On the other hand, there are a couple of lines from the book that did not make it into the movie, but perhaps should have. After George rightly criticizes Cecil’s chauvinism to Lucy, she forces George to admit to his own controlling impulses:

    “I’m the same kind of brute at bottom. This desire to govern a woman—it lies very deep, and men and women must fight it together before they shall enter the garden. But I do love you surely in a better way than he does.” He thought. “Yes—really in a better way. I want you to have your own thoughts even when I hold you in my arms.”

    XVI

    On the subject of the costuming, I have to say that it looks basically perfect to me; however, I am not familiar enough with the clothing of the Edwardian era to know if there are any tiny details that might be inaccurate in the film. One of the things John Bright talks about in a brief interview in one of the featurettes is the use of colors in the costumes as a visual shorthand for characters and moods. He mentions that the darker colors that the Italian characters tend to wear reflect their vigor and energy, in contrast to the “wishy-washy” English tourists, who are mostly in shades of beige. In the (hilarious) nude bathing scene, Mrs. Honeychurch, Lucy, and Cecil wear white because they are meant to appear very “pure” — “avenging angels,” as Bright puts it. ;-) These are the kinds of design choices that I really appreciate, because while I notice them on a subconscious level, they are subtle enough not to distract from the story.

    Sorry for the long comment!

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