DVD Review: Remember when Merchant Ivory was a brand to believe in, not an insult?

At some point during the 1990s, the term “Merchant Ivory”—referring to films made by the team of producer Ismail Merchant and director James Ivory, usually in collaboration with screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala—became the cinematic equivalent of “Masterpiece Theatre.” It signified quality, but often in a pejorative way, suggesting something British and tasteful and stuffy and frightfully dull. Around that time, the team was dropping biographical duds like Jefferson In Paris (1995) and Surviving Picasso (1996), and they never really recovered (Merchant died in 2005), so the mildly disparaging tone stuck. Which is a shame, because nobody has been more consistently successful at turning great books into, at the very least, very good movies. They did especially well by E.M. Forster, and 1985’s A Room With A View, released as part of the Criterion collection this week, makes literary adaptation look deceptively easy.

Part of Merchant Ivory …

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