A Room with a View – The Criterion Collection #775 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

September 20, 2015 by  


“A Room with a View” features wonderful storytelling, magnificent acting and enjoyable characters that makes this James Ivory and Ismail Merchant film worth watching! Highly recommended!

Image courtesy of © 1985 Goldcrest Films International. 2015 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: A Room with a View – The Criterion Collection #775


DURATION: 117 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Color, 1:66:1 aspect ratio, English 2.0 Surround, Subtitles: English SDH


RELEASE DATE: September 29, 2015

Directed by Jim Ivory

Based on the Novel by E.M. Forster

Screenplay by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala

Produced by Ismail Merchant

Associate Producer: Paul Bradley, Peter Marangoni

Music by Richard Robbins

Cinematography by Tony Pierce-Roberts

Edited by Humphrey Dixon

Casting by Celestia Fox

Production Design by Brian Ackland-Snow, Gianni Quaranta

Art Decoration by Elio Altramura, Brian Savegar

Costume Design by Jenny Beavan, John Bright


Maggie Smith as Charlotte Bartlett, a chaperon

Helena Bonham Carter as Lucy Honeychurch, Miss Bartlett’s cousin

Denholm Elliott as Mr. Emerson, an English tourist

Julian Sands as George Emerson

Simon Callow as The Reverend Mr. Beebe

Patrick Godfrey as the Reverend Mr. Eager, Chaplain of the Anglican Church in Florence

Merchant Ivory Productions, led by director James Ivory and producer Ismail Merchant (Howards End), became a household name with A Room with a View, the first of their extraordinary adaptations of E. M. Forster novels. A cherubic nineteen-year-old Helena Bonham Carter plays Lucy Honeychurch, a young, independent-minded, upper-class Edwardian woman who is trying to sort out her burgeoning romantic feelings, divided between an enigmatic free spirit (Leaving Las Vegas’s Julian Sands) she meets on vacation in Florence and the priggish bookworm (Lincoln’s Daniel Day-Lewis) to whom she becomes engaged back in the more corseted Surrey. Funny, sexy, and sophisticated, this gargantuan art-house hit features a sublime supporting cast—including Simon Callow (Four Weddings and a Funeral), Judi Dench (Philomena), Denholm Elliott (Raiders of the Lost Ark), Maggie Smith (Downton Abbey)—and remains a touchstone of intelligent romantic cinema.


Back in 1908, English writer E.M. Forster would release his novel “A Room with a View”.

Considered as one of the best written English-language novels of the 20th century, the film received a film adaptation in 1985 by director James Ivory and producer Ismail Merchant (both known for their films “Howards End”, “Maurice” and “The Remains of the Day”).

The film featured the following actors Maggie Smith (“The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie”, “Gosford Park”, “Harry Potter” films”), Helena Bonham Carter (“Fight Club”, “The King’s Speech”, “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street”, “Alice in Wonderland”), Denholm Elliott (“Indiana Jones” films, “Trading Spaces”), Julian Sands (“Leaving Las Vegas”, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”, “The Killing Fields”), Simon Callow (“Amadeus”, “Four Weddings and a Funeral”), Patrick Godfrey (“The Duchess”, “The Remains of the Day”), Judi Dench (“Skyfall”, “Casino Royale”, “Philomena”, “As Time Goes By”) and Daniel-Day Lewis (“There Will Be Blood”, “Lincoln”, “Gangs of New York”).

The film would win an Academy Award for “Best Art Direction”, “Best Costume Design” and “Best Adapted Screenplay” and its popularity in the United States would help promote the films and work of James Ivory, novelist Ruth Prawer Jhabvala and producer Ismail Merchant back in 1985 (and would lead to even greater attention for their later films “Howards End” and “The Remains of the Day”).

And for the 30th anniversary of the film and the importance of the film in the Merchant Ivory oeuvre, the Criterion Collection will be releasing “A Room with a View” on Blu-ray and DVD in Sept. 2015.

“A Room with a View” is a coming-of-age film which begins with Miss Lucy Honeychurch (portrayed by Helena Bonham Carter) from England, going to Italy to visit her overbearing older cousin Charlotte Bartlett (portrayed by Maggie Smith), who is also her chaperone.  Because Lucy was brought up in an easy going household, Charlotte often is outspoken of how Charlotte should behave.

At a small pensione, Lucy and Charlotte meet Reverend Beebe (portrayed by Simon Callow), Miss Catharine Alan (portrayed by Fabia Drake), the Miss Alans, author Miss Eleanor Lavish (portrayed by Judi Dench) and the very outspoken nonconformist Mr. Emerson (portrayed by Denholm Elliott) and his son George (portrayed by Julian Sands), while English, wanting to escape the thinking of the norm and think forward to the future.

But while Charlotte is repulsed by Mr. Emerson, Lucy finds him quite interesting but also is intrigued by George because of his perspective and his ways of expressing himself.

One day, as George and Lucy are alone and he kisses her, he confesses his love for her.  But because Charlotte has saw this, she tries to convince Lucy that he is using her and she must stay away from him, in order to save her reputation.

As Lucy returns back to England and tries to move on with her life, another man, the wealthy and influential Cecil Vyse (portrayed by Daniel Day-Lewis) wants to marry Lucy, but what happens when Cecil invites Mr. Emerson and George to move to the same village and live in his cottage?


“A Room with a View – The Criterion Collection #775” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:66:1 aspect ratio). The film looks very good in HD with no signs of aging.  Grain is consistent throughout the film and colors look natural, skintones are well-saturated and looks beautiful, considering the work put in by the Criterion Collection to address the chroma hue shifting.  I didn’t notice any artifacts or problematic issues with picture quality.

According to the Criterion Collection, the film is “presented in the director’s preferred aspect ratio of 1:66:1.  Supervised by director James Ivory and cinematographer Tony Pierce-Roberts, this new digital transfer was created in 4K resolution on an ARRISCAN film scanner from the 35 mm original camera negative.  It’s believed that when the negative was originally processed, it’s believed that the negative was originally processed, it was removed from the final “fixation” bath too soon, resulting in chroma hue shifting across the entire feature.  Frames were slightly different even within the same shot, causing distracting color imbalances.  The restoration process involved the manual removal of thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices and warps using MTI’s DRS, wile Digital Vision’s Phoenix was used to address the chroma hue shifting, small dirt, grain, noise management, flicker and jitter.


As for the lossless audio, “A Room with a View – The Criterion Collection #775”. The film is presented in English LPCM 2.0. Dialogue and music are crystal clear via the front channels.

According to the Criterion Collection, “The original 2.0 surround soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from the 35 mm magnetic tracks.  Clicks, thumps, hiss, hum and crackle were manually removed using Pro Tools HD, AudioCube’s integrated workstation and iZotope RX4”.

Subtitles are in English SDH.


“A Room with a View – The Criterion Collection #775” comes with the following special features:

  • Thought and Passion – (21:22) A 2015 interview conducted by the Criterion Collection with director James Ivory, producer Ismail Merchant and crew.
  • The Eternal Yes – (36:22) A 2015 interview conducted by the Criterion Collection with Helena Bonham Carter, Simon Callow and Julian Sands.
  • NBC Nightly News – (4:07) A 2015 interview conducted by the Criterion Collection with actor Maynard Eziashi.
  • Trailer – (2:23) Theatrical trailer for “A Room with a View”.


“A Room with a View – The Criterion Collection #775” comes with a six-page fold-out insert with the essay “English Hearts and Italian Sunshine” by John Pym.


I absolutely adore Merchant Ivory films.

Both James Ivory, writer Ruth Prawer Jhabvala and producer Ismail Merchant have a wonderful way of taking on films that are not mainstream, but yet are intelligent, beautiful and often taking on a setting from the past.  In the case of “A Room with the View”, the film is set during the Victorian Era (the period of Queen Victoria’s reign from 1837-1901).

Part of the attraction of this story, especially during the Victorian era is that it captures a story during a time when English women from the upper middle class were becoming independent and leading adventurous lives.

For Lucy Honeychurch, that’s leaving her comfortable living for the time being to visit her overbearing cousin and chaperone.  While Lucy is proper and enjoying her time in Italy, her cousin Charlotte Bartlett is often trying to tell her how to be a woman and to watch out for certain people in society.  But while staying at the pensione, this is where she meets the outspoken and nonconformist Mr. Emerson and his son George, who are more future-thinking and are not men who appreciate the norm of society.

Watching the film, you can’t help but be intrigued by the dialogue, the humor and how these characters are intertwine in society, first in Italy, later in England and from George declaring his love for Lucy, while a more wealthier man (who happens to be a snob), Cecil Vyse also declares his love and his intention to marry Lucy.

Being inexperienced at love, she eventually looks to Cecil as her suitor due to his rank and class, but when it is announced of the new tenants who will be living at Vyse’s cottage, it turns out that the new arrivals are the Emersons.

So, life for Miss Honeychurch becomes a bit complicated but for the most part, the novel, despite the story being written by Forster in 1908, the film adaptation showcases a coming-of-age story but also is a fascinating romantic love story.

For historians, the film also shows the differences of traditional thinking as exhibited by Charlotte and others, while the Emersons are more radical thinkers and Lucy, being more intrigued to that style of thinking.  Also, the film would incorporate the independent thinking of women for the era as Lucy would be responsible for choosing the man she loves, not her family.

As for the Blu-ray release, “A Room with a View” looks great for a film that is 30-years-old.  Grain is still intact, colors are well-saturated and for the most part, despite the challenges presented in the remastering of the film by the Criterion Collection, they did a wonderful job for the film’s presentation and also the soundtrack featuring crystal clear dialogue and fantastic musical score.

Also, included are interviews with James Ivory and also footage of the late Ismail Merchant, as well as interviews with a few members of the cast discussing their memories of working on the film.  Also, an old Today show clip about the popularity of “A Room with a View” back in 1985.

Overall, “A Room with a View” features wonderful storytelling, magnificent acting and enjoyable characters that makes this James Ivory and Ismail Merchant film worth watching!

Highly recommended!

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