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UK 1963
Directed by
James Ivory
101 minutes
Rated G

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

Householder, The

The influence of Satyajit Ray in this, the first Merchant-Ivory collaboration goes further than simply stylistic. It was not only shot by Ray’s cameraman, Subrata Mitra, who would shoot another four Merchant-Ivory production, but Ray himself re-cut the first print giving the film its book-ended form. Based on a novel by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala who also adapted it for the screen, it is the story of the growth of love in an arranged marriage between a poor schoolteacher, Prem (Shashi Kapoor), and his young new wife, Indu (Leela Naidu).

It is a gently amusing portrait of Indian society of the time and features a typology of characters such as the bossy mother-in-law, an exploitative school principal and his stuck-up wife, a pedantic history teacher and so on. This is nicely observed material that no doubt had quite a satirical import in its day. The film is less successful when it has Prem head off in search of a solution to his spiritual malaise and he gets involved with a colony of expatriate bohemians. Above all, however, it is the classically 60s black and white visuals which carry what is a relatively slight and occasionally awkward film.

DVD Extras: High-definition digital transfer (unfortunately the film’s audio is of poor quality); The Sword and the Flute (1959), director James Ivory’s second documentary short film, about Indian miniature painting; The Creation of Woman (1960), the first short film produced by Ismail Merchant, starring legendary Indian dancer, Bhaskar Roy Chaudhuri; Conversation with the Filmmakers, part of a series of interviews with Ismail Merchant, James Ivory, Shashi Kapoor, and Saeed Jaffrey; English subtitles for the hard of hearing.

Available from: Shock Entertainment




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