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Howards End is a thought-provoking, luminous vision of E. M. Forster’s cutting 1910 novel about class divisions in Edwardian England. Margaret Schlegel, a flighty yet compassionate middle-class intellectual whose friendship with the dying wife 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.
For more about Howards End and the Howards End Blu-ray release, see the Howards End Blu-ray Review
Starring: Emma Thompson, Anthony Hopkins, Vanessa Redgrave, Helena Bonham Carter
Director: James Ivory
» See full cast & crew
Howards End Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, November 2, 2009
Winner of three Oscar awards - Best Actress in a Leading Role (Emma Thompson), Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium (Ruth Prawer Jhabvala), and Best Art Direction-Set Decoration (Luciana Arrighi and Ian Whittaker), James Ivory's "Howards End" (1992) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. Amongst the supplemental features on the disc are the documentaries "Building "Howards End" and "The Wandering Company", a short behind the scenes featurette, interview with director James Ivory, theatrical trailer and more. Also included is a 16-page illustrated booklet containing an essay by Los Angeles Times critic Kenneth Turan. Region-A "locked".
Ruth Wilcox (Vanessa Redgrave, Blow-Up) realizes that she is seriously ill. She befriends the opinionated but still lighthearted Margaret Schlegel (Emma Thompson, In The Name of The Father), who often manages to cheer her up, and invites her to accompany her to Howards End, her adored country home. At first, Margaret kindly declines the invitation, but then changes her mind. Before the two friends board their train, however, Ruth's husband, Henry (Anthony Hopkins, Silence of the Lambs), appears and urges them to reconsider their plans.
Henry is a businessman. His mind is always preoccupied with the market and those who control it. He loves Ruth dearly, but has little time to spend with her. Though Henry never makes it obvious, he finds his wife's social friends rather obnoxious. Henry and Ruth have a daughter, Evie (Jemma Redgrave, Moonlight), and son, Paul (Joseph Bennett), who is about to marry Margaret's sister, Helen (Helena Bonham Carter, Fight Club).
Before Ruth dies, she writes down on a piece of paper that she leaves Howards End to Margaret. After his wife's death, Henry shows her note to the family – and then ignores it. Soon after, he asks Margaret if she would be willing to become his wife.
In the meantime, the Schlegels accidentally befriend the young Leonard Bast (Sam West, Carrington), a man who isn't as financially secure as the Schlegels are, but is willing to work hard so that one day he could be as fortunate as they are. Helen likes Leonard a lot – perhaps more than a decent lady should. She asks a lot of questions about his profession and family background.
During a casual meeting, Helen mentions Leonard to Henry and asks if he might have a good advise that would further her new friend's career. Henry suggests that Leonard is told to look for a different position because his company is in a serious financial crisis – not a publicized one, but known to people like him. Shortly after, Leonard visits the Schlegels again, and Helen relates Henry's message to him. Trusting her advice, he quits his job to pursue a career elsewhere.
Margaret and Henry marry. During a massive restructuring, Leonard is sacked from his new job. As a result, Helen openly confronts Henry about his advice, which leads to a serious confrontation between him and Margaret. Seriously disturbed, Helen goes to Germany refusing to see her sister again. When she finally comes back home, Leonard appears asking to see her. Paul, who has grown incredibly frustrated with Leonard's interference in his family's affairs, confronts him.
Based on E.M. Forster's novel and a script by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, Howards End is arguably the best film to be produced by the Merchant Ivory team. It is beautifully lensed, incredibly well directed and terrifically acted.
Like most every other film director James Ivory and producer Ismail Merchant shot, Howards End tells a terrific period story about values and morals. At first, its characters seem indestructible, at times even arrogant; few could understand their world. But then, as they begin to ache and suffer, one begins to realize how incredibly weak and vulnerable they actually are.
What makes Howards End a truly fascinating experience – aside from the intoxicatingly beautiful visuals from the British countryside as well as Richard Robbins' sublime music score – is the continuous displacement of right and wrong. What seems justified in one scene is completely unreasonable in another. Perceptions about love and honesty as well as social justice and civic responsibility are questioned in a terrific fashion.
In 1993, Howards End won three Oscar awards - Best Actress in a Leading Role (Emma Thompson), Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium (Ruth Prawer Jhabvala), and Best Art Direction-Set Decoration (Luciana Arrighi and Ian Whittaker).
Howards End Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.39:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, James Ivory's Howards End arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
Supervised by cinematographer Tony Pierre-Roberts and approved by director James Ivory, the high-definition transfer for Howards End has been created on a C-Reality Datacine with Oliver Wetgate processing from the original 35mm interpositive. The result is a vibrant, terrific looking transfer that will surely impress fans of this beautiful film. Detail is excellent, clarity outstanding, and contrast very convincing. The large panoramic shots from the British countryside, in particular, are terrific. Edge-enhancement and macroblocking are not an issue of concern. Neither is digital noise, though I spotted a bit in the very beginning of the film. There are no traces of heavy filtering - film grain is very much in tact. The overall condition of the transfer is also excellent - I did not detect any disturbing debris, scratches, blemishes, or dirt. Finally, when blown through a digital projector, Howards End remains pleasingly stable. All in all, this is yet another fantastic looking release by the competent folks at Criterion. (Note: This is a Region-A "locked" disc. Therefore, unless you have a native Region-A or Region-Free player, you won't be able to access its content).
Howards End Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one audio track on this Blu-ray disc: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. For the record, Criterion have provided optional English subtitles for the main feature. When turned on, they split the image frame and the black bar below it (two-line texts appear inside the image frame; three-line texts have the bottom line outside of the image frame).
The soundtrack has been remastered at 24-bit from the 6-track magnetic soundtrack. Crackle has been attenuated using AudioCube's integrated audio workstation. Additionally, numerous pops, clicks, hiss and hum have been manually removed.
I have absolutely no reservations with the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track whatsoever. Richard Robbins' lovely score sounds beautiful; it is lush and very dynamic. The dialog is crisp, clear and very easy to follow. There are absolutely no balance issues to report either. All in all, I believe that a lot of people would be pleasantly surprised by the enormous depth of the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track, particularly those who have previously seen Howards End on SDVD.
Howards End Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Building "Howards End" - a very informative documentary on the production history of the film where director James Ivory, producer Ismail Merchant, actress Helena Bonham Carter, costume designer Jenny Beavan, and production designer Luciana Arrighi. This is also an incredibly hilarious documentary (pay close attention to Merchant's comments about American financiers, Sony Pictures Classics, etc). Not subtitled. (43 min, 1080i/60).
The Design of "Howards End" - production designer Luciana Arrighi and costume designer Jenny Beaven talk about the elaborate period costumes, fantastic locations from the film, etc. Not subtitled, (9 min, 1080/60i).
The Wandering Company - a documentary, produced in 1984 as Merchant Ivory was preparing A Room with a View, which takes a look back at the history of the company and its first twenty years of films. Not subtitled. (50 min, 1080/60i).
James Ivory on Ismail Merchant, 2009 - director James Ivory recalls how he first met Ismail Merchant and their creative partnership began. Not subtitled. (13 min, 1080p).
Behind the Scenes - a very short featurette highlighting some of the key themes from the film. Director James Ivory, producer Ismail Merchant, Helena Bonham Carter, Emma Thompson and Anthony Hopkins quickly comment on the film as well. Not subtitled. (5 min, 1080/60i).
Theatrical trailer - Not subtitled. (2 min, 1080p).
Booklet - a 16-page booklet containing Los Angeles Times critic Kenneth Turan's essay "All Is Grace".
Howards End Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Criterion's treatment of this most beautiful film is exceptionally strong. I wish they would also find the time and resources to release Quartet, my favorite film from the Merchant Ivory Collection. Of course, Howards End comes HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Howards End Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Today on Blu-ray - November 3rd - November 3, 2009
When 'Forrest Gump' received its theatrical release 15 years ago, the media quickly latched onto the realistic special effects used to insert Tom Hanks character into a number of historically significant film footage that can be seen throughout the film. ...
• Slight Delay for Three Criterion BDs (Update) - September 16, 2009
Retailers have been alerted that three upcoming Blu-ray titles from Criterion will delayed one or two weeks. 'Monsoon Wedding', initially announced for October 13, will street on October 20. In turn, 'Howards End' and 'Wings of Desire', previously slated for October ...
• Criterion October Wave: Howards End, Monsoon Wedding, Wings of De... - July 17, 2009
The Criterion Collection has just announced three very notable movies for release on Blu-ray: Mira Nair's 'Monsoon Wedding' will street on October 13, followed a week later by two other titles: James Ivory's 'Howards End' and Wim Wenders' 'Wings of Desire' (Der ...
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