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Maurice(1987)

With the success of James Ivory’s script for the recent Call Me By Your Name (2017), it’s fascinating to look back at his 1987 adaptation of E.M. Forster’s posthumously published novel, an earlier work dealing with a young man’s adjustment to homosexuality. Released at the height of the AIDS epidemic, the film became a touchstone for gay audiences for its positive depiction of a male romantic triangle. Young Maurice (James Wilby) falls in love with his wealthy Cambridge classmate (Hugh Grant, in his first major role), who can’t pursue the relationship further in the society of early 20th-century England. Heartbroken, he meets a more open gamekeeper (Rupert Graves), who offers the chance of a convention-flouting life together. With its depiction of closeted gay lives, legal oppression, the fear of blackmail and even an early form of conversion therapy, the film is as timely today as it was then. If anything, it seems ahead of its time, as demonstrated by contemporary reviews from critics who couldn’t deal with its overt sexuality. Yet, it’s still very much a Merchant Ivory film, thematically consistent with Ivory’s long standing professional and personal relationship with producer Ismail Merchant, thanks to its loving re-creation of period detail, finely tuned performances (including Ben Kingsley, Simon Callow and, in a cameo, Helena Bonham Carter) and delicate, almost meticulous passions. (d. James Ivory, 140m, Digital)

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