on April 6, 2004
"A Room With A View" is the sumptuous Merchant/Ivory production of E.M. Forster's novel about a young woman, Lucy Honeychurch (Helena Bonham-Carter) who longs to escape her clausterphobic life. To this end she's drawn to two men of varying virtue; George (Julian Sands) a fiery, passionate dreamer - alive with living, and Cecil (Daniel Day Lewis) the snobbish and stale, though socially acceptable, man about town. This is a fabulous production, elegantly mounted and rich in stellar acting and performances that sadly, are in very short supply in today's cinema. Particularly with Bonham-Carter, one simply wishes that she would play more such roles.
TRANSFER: At long last, yes! After a previously issued disc that frankly, wasn't worth the cheap piece of plastic it was recorded on, this new 2-disc version does right on all accounts. The picture is stunning in a new 16:9 anamorphic transfer. Colors are rich and well balanced. Contrast and shadow levels are bang on. There is some slight shimmering but nothing to terribly distract. The audio is 5.1 and nicely represented. The music is the real kicker here.
EXTRAS: Some interesting archival footage, a BBC featurette, a bit about the author and a very informative audio commentary.
BOTTOM LINE: This is a keeper!
on June 23, 2004
I saw this film when it first came out, in the theater, and it has remained one of my favorite films. It was the first film I bought when I got a VCR. This is one of those elegant Merchant-Ivory productions (which also include Maurice and A Passage to India, other E.M. Forster adaptations to film) that sets the late Victorian/early twentieth century world in upper- to upper-middle class England in such gracious light.
The stars of this film include Helena Bonham Carter as Lucy, the heroine, and Julian Sands as George Emerson, her free-spirited suitor, who shocks everyone by doing such risque things as running around without a jacket, or kissing someone (willing) in a field of poppies. The official suitor of Lucy is the stuffed-shirt Cecil Vyse, whose personality seems like it is jammed in a vise. There are great performances by Judi Dench (as a conventional free-spirit, one who likes to be freespirited but not at the expense of reputation), Rupert Graves, Simon Callow, Denhom Elliot, and an outstanding performance (as always, she just has to walk on the set and the film gets an extra star) by Maggie Smith, as the gossipy and fretting aunt and chaperone to Lucy, who eventually comes round to recognizing and rejoicing in the true love of Lucy and George.
The sets are beautiful, the costumes all very much a part of the period, as are the small touches that make up the style of English society that Forster was trying to expose and celebrate in different ways both at the same time. The music is enchanting, with the glorious opera piece "O Mio Bambino Caro" sung by Kiri te Kanawa.
on April 18, 2004
Just watched a Room With A View after having it recommended to my by a friend. I was not dissapointed. The scenery was breathtaking. After watching I was tempted to buy an airplane ticket to Florence and England!
And the kissing scenes. The type that makes your hear go pitter patter and faint. When George first kisses Lucy without any reservations or hesitation- so passsionate! Then he does it again back in England so boldly, since Lucy's fiance Cecil is but a few feet away. The last scene where Lucy and George are kissing and the windows are open letting the view come forth, this is more emotionally charged and sexual than any sex scene I have ever come across in any movie.
Hard to believe that Julian Sands did not become a major romantic lead after this movie. (He could have been like Hugh Grant or better yet Colin Firth or even his costar Daniel Day Lewis) I think he needs to find another agent. I've seen him in other movies though I didn't really notice him until this one. And his other movies are quite bad. Sad to think this movie close to 20 years old is his highlight. He gives such a good performance as George Emerson. He doesn't say much but when he does it's full of meaning. His facial expressions say much more than words could. And just the way he looks at Lucy....when he is looking at her feet after they are done playing tennis - it literally takes my breath away. How could he make looking at feet look so sexy, hot and deliciously wicked all at the same time?!
Daniel Day Lewis as Cecil. Cecil is such a bore,.but I mean it in a good way. Didn't exude any type of sexuality or passion in the least. Hard to believe this is the same guy who made women watch Last of The Mohicans over and over just for him and become so violent in Gangs of New York. Daniel Day Lewis did such a good job with this part I barely recognized him.
Helena Bonham Carter - repressed yet so full of possibilites. And very innocent - was this really the same woman in Fight Club! Demure yet becoming increasingly vocal. And she's gone on to such great roles after this.
There are just too many great actors to name. I love Denholm Holt who played Mr. Emerson. He was so endearing and charming.
Maggie Smith plays the chaperone! Maybe you can get Julian Sands a role in the next Harry Potter movie.
This is such a beauitiful movie. I just wish the DVD had more extras. I wish it had some interviews with all the cast members, and a making of the movie. I would give it 5 stars, but the lack of extras on the DVD earns it a 4.
on July 11, 2002
WAIT!! Don't buy this version!! I did and promptly returned it. The vocal track is off -- and this is not a problem with my DVD player (never had this problem before, and have loaded it up with all kinds of DVDs). I just wish a better version could be released, with commentaries, outtakes, costume design info, all the fun stuff. This film is a gem, but don't sacrifice widescreen (which I do adore) for what looks like a dubbed Godzilla movie. -- RELUCTANTLY DISSING ONE OF MY FAVORITE MOVIES FOR TECHNICAL REASONS. *RENT/BUY THE VIDEO* for now -- you'll thank me later.
A Room With A View  [Blu-ray] [UK Release] ‘A Room With A View’ is a brilliant and romantic social comment about the English at home and abroad at the beginning of the 20th Century.
Set in Florence and also the English countryside, the film tells the story of a young English couple, Lucy Honeychurch [Helena Bonham Carter] and George Emerson [Julian Sands], who encounters passion whilst on holiday in Florence, Italy. Defying the Victorian conventions of their elders that they dare to be true to their emotions and feelings of each other and their true love. Superbly adapted from the E.M. Foster's classic novel and boasting a wonderful cast, including Daniel Day-Lewis, Dame Maggie Smith, Dame Judy Dench, Denholm Elliot and Simon Callow. ‘A Room With A View’ was a world-wide smash hit and cemented the reputation Merchant Ivory as masters in interpreting the period of the time.
FILM FACT: Nominated for Eight Academy Awards® in 1986, including Best Art Direction [Gianni Quaranta], [Brian Ackland-Snow], [Brian Savegar] and [Elio Altamura]. Best Costume Design [Jenny Beavan] and [John Bright]. Best Adapted Screenplay [Ruth Prawer Jhabvala].
BAFTAs: Best Actress [Dame Maggie Smith]. Best Supporting Actress [Dame Judi Dench]. Best Costume Design [Jenny Beavan]. Best Film [James Ivory]. Best Production Design [Brian Ackland-Snow].
Actors: Helena Bonham Carter, Julian Sands, Dame Maggie Smith, Denholm Elliott, Daniel Day-Lewis, Simon Callow, Rosemary Leach, Rupert Graves, Patrick Godfrey, Dame Judi Dench, Fabia Drake, Joan Henley, Amanda Walker, Maria Britneva, Mia Fothergill and Peter Cellier
Director: James Ivory
Producer: Ismail Merchant
Screenplay: E.M. Forster and Ruth Prawer Jhabvala
Composer: Richard Robbins
Cinematography: Tony Pierce-Roberts
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: 5.1 DTS-HD Dolby Digital
Subtitles: English SDH
Running Time: 112 minutes
Region: All Regions
Number of discs: 1
Andrew's Review - Producer Ismail Merchant and Director James Ivory, better known collectively as Merchant Ivory, are known for their lavish costume dramas. While they had been making films since the 1960's, the first film to gain them any kind of major notoriety was their adaptation of E.M. Forster's A Room With A View. Starring a then the unknown Helena Bonham Carter at the head of a cast of notable British character actors, the film was a major hit the world over, winning several Academy Awards in both England and America and being nominated for many more. Now, 22 years later, the film has been released on this exquisite Blu-ray disc.
E.M. Forster's novel was written at the turn of the 20th Century, when English society was just learning how to come out from the ironclad grip of Victorian attitude. At the time, the novel was a harsh critique of a country that was trying desperately to hold on to standards of etiquette and decorum that Forster saw as increasingly restrictive. This novel was seen as a rebellious cry for youth. Looking at it now, where people are encouraged to say what they feel and do as they please, it feels antiquated. Of course Lucy should run off with George, a modern audience member is more than likely to think. Why wouldn't she?
The film does an excellent job of setting up the pressures placed upon a British lady of the period. In particular, Dame Maggie Smith is brilliant as the old-fashioned and repressed Charlotte. With just a few words, she conveys all that is wrong with English social conventions. Daniel Day-Lewis is also a standout with his take on Cecil. As a member of the old guard, he certainly is an ill fit for Lucy, but he's not so far gone that he can't perhaps find his own way in the grand scheme of things.
This was an early film for Helena Bonham Carter, and indeed the one that set the course of her career for many years to come. That being said, she's not especially good. She's flat and often seems to be reacting instead of acting. More than that, though, she plays Lucy as someone who for the most part accepts the very aspects of English life that she's meant to be running away from. I know it's a story about repression, but she seems to enjoy it as much as she resists it. Julian Sands is just a sheer joy to watch, as he is in practically every film he's in.
As I mentioned before, Merchant Ivory are best known for their detailed depictions of times now past. ‘A Room With A View’ is no exception. The sweeping views of Florence, Italy are so beautifully rendered, and the costumes are totally perfect, probably down to the stitching. The fateful pond in which Lucy's brother Freddie bathes is picturesque and lush. On the other hand, James Ivory's actual filmmaking technique feels a little too precious for my taste. In particular, the score overlaid on top of the film often feels far too beatific for the events actually occurring on screen. Often we'll have a perfectly good dialogue scene ruined by the incessant whining of the strings, which appear so often as to lose all impact. Even with Ivory's penchant for affectation, there's still a solid little film in ‘A Room With A View.’ I don't necessarily think it's quite as great many feel it is, but there's no denying that the production values and acting are first rate and is worth viewing on a regular basis.
Blu-ray Video Quality – ‘A Room With A View’ was a low budget 1985 British film 1985. The encoded 1080p transfer is fine for its age. Colours are pastel and add to the period of the time, but despite this, I really enjoyed this Blu-ray disc and is now definitely in need of a re-mastered Blu-ray disc.
Blu-ray Audio Quality – The BBC has generously given us a 5.1 DTS-HD mix for this release, but it doesn't amount to much. Aside from the score and a few environmental effects [rainfall etc], the surrounds are almost never used. This is about as stereo of a mix as you can get. Also, it's showing its age. Dialogue is slightly harsh, so that is why it is about time they re-mastered this classic film, despite this, I really like viewing this Blu-ray disc.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
All of the special features are in 480p. Almost all of them are period clips from BBC television, and as such are of rather low picture quality.
Commentary with Producer Ismail Merchant, Director James Ivory, Director of Photography Tony Pierce-Roberts and Actor Simon Callow: This low-key commentary is almost as held back as the characters in the film. Merchant Ivory dominates the proceedings with light reminiscences. Callow jumps in every so often and Pierce-Roberts is hardly heard at all. Much of the commentary is devoted to listening to the men simply watch the movie. This not very engaging at all.
Interviews with Actors Simon Callow and Daniel Day Lewis: These are interviews from when the film was shot. They're from a BBC TV morning show called "Breakfast Time." They're both very brief and insubstantial. Of the two, Daniel Day-Lewis has the better one, but neither is anything revelatory.
Breakfast Time Report on UK Films In The USA: Another snippet, this time on the success of ‘A Room With A View’ in America. There are some hilarious interviews here with New Yorkers coming out of the theatre, having just seen the movie.
Film '96 Profile on Merchant Ivory: A short retrospective on the Merchant Ivory history. Included are achingly brief interviews with Greta Scacchi, Hugh Grant, and Helena Bonham Carter.
E.M. Forster Remembered: A half-hour tribute to the author shortly after his death. Included are remembrances by friends, commentary by critics, and more.
Film Scrapbook: A photo gallery, with the film's insufferable music playing over the top.
Finally, ‘A Room With A View’ is one of the most highly regarded period piece of the time. And with the film's attention to detail and stellar cast, it's easy to see why it was a massive world-wide hit. While I do think James Ivory's filmmaking can be a little too much of a good thing, this is a film that is worth seeing time after time and I am so honoured to add this beautiful Merchant Ivory Blu-ray disc to my Blu-ray Collection. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Fan
Le Cinema Paradiso
WARE, United Kingdom
on May 18, 2004
...if you have the least interest in this film-BUY the new DVD. It's simply amazing. I've scanned these reviews here, and apparently there was an earlier DVD issue that wasn't up to par at ALL-but rest assured, this reasonably-priced "Special Edition" looks and sounds crisp, clean-and stunningly beautiful. Obviously I loved the film when it was originally released, and plenty of others did as well-see reviews below. But watching this new DVD the other night, I was struck at how amazing this movie really is: in the first place, it's rare(to put it mildly!)for a film nearly 20 years old to not look "dated" at ALL-this one doesn't. It could have been shot yesterday. I'd be willing to bet that in 15 years "Shakespeare in Love" *will* look somehow "late '90s"-it's the norm for period costume pieces to wind up reflecting the styles of the times they were made, even if we can't see it without the distance of years passing. What an achievement, then for James Ivory, Ismail Merchant, and the designers/cinematographer/costumer...and the actors-! Superb, all of them. The second audio track is, I'm afraid, a little superfluous(although it was enjoyable to hear the producers chatting away with Simon Callow-"the Rev. Beebe"-and the only actor to record commentary, alas)...but it doesn't matter a whit. Truly one of those things where everything came together perfectly. If you buy this, you'll have a great shot at converting a few jaded kids(assuming you've got some around the house)to the glories of another time and place, and *real* romance(and just about the sexiest kisses you could ask for). Enjoy!
on July 18, 2000
An astonishingly beautiful adaptation of the novel that might well even make the film-hating Forster proud.
Too bad its beauty has been unhappily ruined by those idiots at Image Entertainment, who have released such an appalling DVD transfer that I had to take mine back and get a refund. The cinematography is hard, green, orange and so digitized that anything with highlights quivers irritatingly. This is a problem with all motion pictures, as the registration has never been rock solid. But with a good transfer, you don't even see it, as you almost don't see it in the theatre. It seems Artisan Entertainment and Image are competing for the worst quality of their DVD releases. NOT ONLY THAT - the film is missing, yes MISSING, approx. 40 seconds at the end of one scene. I called Image here in Chatsworth and they said, "Thank you, we'll check it out." I'm sure that went as far as my own telephone. I thought the disk was skipping, but ran it frame by frame and yes, it's missing. I am surprised Ismail Merchant has not addressed this problem, since he follows every step his movies take.
In anycase, don't bother with the DVD. It will only cause agonies of frustration. Just stick with the ancient, though beautiful transfer Fox made for VHS years ago.
on July 16, 2000
"A Room with a View" starts with two women on holiday lamenting the disappointing view from their hotel room. In a similar way, I found myself lamenting the poor quality of this disc. And like other reviewers on this page, I can't praise this film enough! But I only feel ill will toward the DVD version.
The video lacks the sharpness of other DVDs. Starting right from the main titles, the film's exquisite cinematography looks hazy here, with orange and green halos of color bleeding from pixel to pixel. It is not anamorphic or enhanced for widescreen televisions. The video was compressed to fit on a single-layer disc, and appears interlaced.
The DVD would only play in fits and starts on my Apple iMac DV before overwhelming the computer entirely. I had never seen the computer choke like this before, through dozens of other DVDs.
The Dolby sound is good, but there is no commentary on the disc, no production notes, no trailer, no second language -- no extras to speak of whatsoever -- and it comes in a paperboard latch case instead of a glossy keep case. It feels like corners were cut in every possible way.
This disc seems an insult to the hard work that talented artists put into "A Room with a View," and the DVD's makers owe the film's ardent fans an apology.
If you think you want to buy this DVD, rent it first and see if you don't change your mind. If you don't already own Sony's "Howards End" on DVD, buy that instead -- both films appeal to a similar audience.
To see how a DVD should be made, try "Collectors Edition" discs from Universal Pictures such as "Fried Green Tomatoes" or "Field of Dreams." For scenery of Italy, try "Much Ado About Nothing" from Columbia TriStar and Samuel Goldwyn, or for scenery in general, try "A River Runs Through It" from Columbia Pictures.
As DVDs go, all of these discs are far superior to "A Room with a View." I had been looking forward to "A Room with a View" on DVD with great anticipation. What a letdown! I hope 20th Century Fox and Image Entertainment find a way to make amends, sooner than later.
on September 16, 2000
Any viewers who have a heraing-impairment, viewers who do not have English as their native language, or viewers that simply intend to watch this movie with a low volume-level, please be aware -- this DVD lacks both English subtitles and English Close Captioning. I had so looked forward to including this movie in my DVD library, but for some reason which is beyond me, the Image people were ignorant enough to leave out English subtitles/captions, rendering this film almost useless for me, and probably a lot of other people as well. All I can hope for is a Special Edition in the future, perhaps by another studio who takes the fine art of video production -- and us viewers -- more seriously.
However, if you have no need whatsoever for English subtitles, then go right ahead and buy this movie. It's romantic, it's fun, it's wonderful, and you will not regret it (see other reviews for more indepth content commentaries...).
on August 3, 2000
I'll agree with the other DVD reviewers and add another failing that I noticed. Near the end, during the carriage ride with Ms. Honeychurch and her mother, the audio track gets a little out of sync with the picture for a couple of minutes. That, and the missing 40 seconds in the rather crucial scene in the Italian pension after the picnic, were things that bothered me the most. A Room With A View is my favorite movie of all time; I don't have to have special features on the DVD, like director's commentary or "making of" segments, though they would have been nice, but at the VERY least I expect them to actually give me the entire (!!!) movie without leaving bits out. Quite disappointing.