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The Estate of Things: James Ivory’s “The City of Your Final Destination”

The Estate of Things: James Ivory's "The City of Your Final Destination"

Director James Ivory’s first film after the 2005 death of longtime partner Ismail Merchant, doesn’t aim, nor need, to break away from the tradition the two men strove for throughout their forty-plus-year career together. As with so many films that bear the “Merchant Ivory Presents” imprimatur, The City of Your Final Destination is preoccupied with legacy—inheritance, knowledge, generational conflict, the betraying or keeping of familial secrets. This was clearly the subject of their greatest achievement, Howards End, one of cinema’s most metaphorically astute dramatizations of the chasm between the haves and the have-nots, and a work of loving, attentive adaptation—E. M. Forster’s tale of the rise of the British middle-class sprung to life, his delicate balance of tragedy and wryness fully intact. Yet countless other Merchant-Ivory films—especially such less heralded, yet richly realized ones as Heat and Dust, Surviving Picasso, and A Soldier’s Daughter Never Cries—also take on the viewpoint of class outsiders reconciling their own social positions with the mysteriously famous, wealthy, or aristocratic. Investigating art and power, these films question the fabric of society, rather than, as Merchant-Ivory detractors have tiresomely complained, unquestioningly luxuriate in fabrics. Read the rest of Michael Koresky’s review of The City of Your Final Destination.

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