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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • English subtitles
  • 2 Discs
FEATURES
  • Building "Howards End," a documentary featuring interviews with Ivory, Merchant, Helena Bonham Carter, costume designer Jenny Beavan, and Academy Award-winning production designer Luciana Arrighi
  • The Design of "Howards End," a detailed look at the costume and production designs for the film, including original sketche
  • The Wandering Company (1984), a 50-minute documentary about the history of Merchant Ivory Productions
  • Original 1992 behind-the-scenes featurette
  • Original theatrical trailer

Howards End


Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: James Ivory
Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Emma Thompson, Vanessa Redgrave, Helena Bonham Carter, Samuel West
1992 | 142 Minutes | Licensor: Merchant Ivory Productions

Release Information
DVD | MSRP: $29.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #488 | Out of print
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: February 23, 2010
Review Date: February 17, 2010

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SYNOPSIS

The pinnacle of the decades-long collaboration between director James Ivory and producer Ismail Merchant, Howards End is a thought-provoking, luminous vision of E. M. Forster's cutting 1910 novel about class divisions in Edwardian England. Emma Thompson won an Academy Award for her dynamic portrayal of Margaret Schlegel, a flighty yet compassionate middle-class intellectual whose friendship with the dying wife (Vanessa Redgrave) of rich capitalist Henry Wilcox (Anthony Hopkins) commences an intricately woven tale of money, love, and death that encompasses the country's highest and lowest social echelons. With a brilliant, layered script by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala (who also won an Oscar) and a roster of gripping performances, Howards End is a work of both great beauty and vivid darkness, and one of cinema's greatest literary adaptations.

Forum members rate this film 6.1/10

 

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PICTURE

Previously only available as part of the Criterion Collection on Blu-ray, Criterion now presents James Ivoryís Howards End on DVD, presenting the film in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 on the first dual-layer disc of this two disc set.

The transfer on here looks to be based on the same high-def transfer presented on the Blu-ray edition and not a rehash of the original DVD Criterion released through their separate Merchant Ivory line. While I donít have the original DVD on hand I remember more print damage being present, whereas the Blu-ray edition and this DVD look to be free of any sort of damage.

While itís certainly not up to the level of quality of the Blu-ray, due more to the limitations of DVD, the transfer found on here still looks pretty good. One common complaint about the Blu-ray edition was the amount of grain present, which could get heavy at times I guess. I didnít have an issue with it at all but maybe those people would be happier with the DVD edition, which presents very little in the way of visible film grain, coming off a little more subtle here. The transfer still manages to retain an excellent level of detail, remaining quite sharp throughout the film, and I canít say I noticed much in the way of digital artifacts. Colours look wonderful but black levels can still look somewhat washed at times.

The Blu-ray presents a better picture obviously but the DVD still manages to come off looking good, and for those who havenít gone the Blu-ray route should find themselves pleased with this.

8/10

All DVD screen captures are presented in their original size from the source disc. Images have been compressed slightly to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

Despite the nature of the film the DVD still manages to come with a rather boisterous Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track. Dialogue is sharp, sounding quite clear and free of noise. Whatís surprising about the track is the music, which swells, loudly, through all of the speakers. There are also nice surround effects during exterior sequences, such as wind blowing through the trees in a few sequences, which sound to be around you. In all itís a surprisingly sharp and active track.

8/10

SUPPLEMENTS

The film was previously released on DVD through Criterionís Merchant Ivory Collection and then on Blu-ray as part of The Criterion Collection. All the supplements had been ported from that edition to the Blu-ray along with a new interview with James Ivory. In turn, for this new Criterion DVD, all supplements have been ported from the Blu-ray, including the new Ivory interview.

The first disc unfortunately contains nothing but a theatrical trailer. All other supplements are found on the second dual-layer disc.

First is a 42-minute documentary called Building ďHowards EndĒ, made in 2005 prior to Ismail Merchantís death. Itís unfortunately a talking-heads piece but its key interviewees are surprisingly engaging and make the piece more fascinating than I anticipated. Production designer Luciana Arrighi, costume designer Jenny Beavan, and actress Helena Bonham Carter offer decent information on their respective duties for the film, even reflecting on their work on other Merchant Ivory productions but it was producer Ismail Merchant and director James Ivory, filmed together, who surprised me by offering the energy to the piece. Theyíre actually a funny pair, and itís easy to tell they love what they do. Itís pretty clear that Ismail was the ďbrainsĒ so to speak, and he is the one that would convince Ivory on what films to do. I was actually amazed at how uninterested it appears Ivory was in the book Howards End (he states at the beginning there was only one scene in the book he really liked and it never made it into the film) but it appears once Ismail pointed Ivory towards the book he just slipped right in. Thereís discussion on the adaptation, casting, financing, the actual shoot, and then actually finding distribution. It then closes with Orion, their original American distributor, going bankrupt and the legal troubles getting the film released, eventually by the newly formed Sony Pictures Classics. This also presents the most amusing piece as they get into an mild argument about the American legal system and bankruptcy, with Ivory defending it and Merchant condemning it, all out of nowhere. I actually wasnít looking forward to viewing this documentary but I surprisingly enjoyed it. Itís far more interesting than it probably should be.

The Design of ďHowards EndĒ is a short 8-minute piece featuring more of a focus on Production designer Luciana Arrighi and costume designer Jenny Beavan. The two talk about capturing the look, Arrighi showing her sketches and finished drawings, and then Beavan getting into the amount of work that went into making the costumes as authentic as possible, even getting special fabric. Interesting enough but not one many should feel inclined to view.

The Wandering Company is a 50-minute, 1984 documentary on Merchat Ivory productions. Itís a decent, though dry, documentary on James Ivory and Ismail Merchant, gathering together various people who worked with them on their films. It moves through their career up to A Room with a View, showing clips from the various films and giving brief histories on them and pointing out common themes. Thereís some interesting anecdotes, including reeling in Raquel Welch on the set of The Wild Party, and Ivory again makes for an interesting interview subject, but the documentary is fairly stuffy and probably only for those that have a real interest in the partnership.

James Ivory on Ismail Merchant is a new feature not available on the previous DVD edition, and was up until now only available on the Blu-ray edition. Recorded last year, Ivory talks about his partnership with Merchant starting with how they first met and then reflecting on Merchantís uncanny ability to get films made despite all the odds, and even wonders how heíll be able to get anything made now. Itís a good interview, probably better at capturing their relationship than the previous documentary.

The disc then closes with a 4-and-a-half minute behind the scenes featurette that is a more a promo piece and not necessary viewing.

The set then comes with a short booklet that includes an essay by Kenneth Turan who covers the film, how itís held up over the years, and the work of Ismail Merchant and James Ivory.

As a whole the supplements are a little hit and miss, though I guess as a whole I enjoyed them more than I thought I would, far more than the main feature. A decent, fairly comprehensive collection of features.

6/10

CLOSING

The Blu-ray edition is still the version to go with since it presents a far sharper picture, which in turn better suits the filmís visuals, but this DVD edition still presents a rather strong standard definition transfer with some strong supplements.


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