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I have heard praises of the Merchant-Ivory collaboration since I was a child. Now I know why.
A wonderful story and a dream cast help to make this a classic.
There's only so far that melodrama can take me on an aesthetic journey. That's what Howards End taught me. Based on E.M. Forster's novel, it has finely crafted characters and witty dialog, and the acting is certainly up to snuff (you don't really have to twist my arm to watch Emma Thompson in anything), as is the cinematography. Set in the Edwardian era, on the cusp of a new society that denies the British Empire's strict class system, and signals the arrival of new industry, independent women, and the end of the great houses (fans of Downton Abbey take note, we're on similar ground here), everything in the film speaks of transition. I have problems with the editing, finding the jumps in time jarring in the sense that they seem to leap important character turns, and those unjustified fades to black in the middle of conversations. But it's the plot that lets the film (and I guess, the book) down. As its mechanics take over, the strong themes and portraiture of English society at the turn of the previous century seem to fall away. I still recommend it, as this is a particular literary pet peeve of mine, but nevertheless, there it is.
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In 8 official lists
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This movie ranks #47 in BAFTA - Best Film
This movie ranks #61 in National Board of Review - Best Film
This movie ranks #273 in Roger Ebert: the great movies
This movie ranks #386 in Academy Award Best Picture Nominees
This movie ranks #407 in The Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made
This movie ranks #425 in The Guardian's 1000 Films to See Before You Die
This movie ranks #427 in Halliwell's Top 1000: The Ultimate Movie Countdown
This movie ranks #535 in The Criterion Collection