In celebration of its 30th Anniversary, the landmark 1987 Maurice returns with a presentation that befits its status as one of the finest films
made by Merchant Ivory Productions, as well as one of the most respected and popular mainstream gay-themed films of its day.
Cohen Media Group, which has acquired a 30-film library of movies directed and produced by the James Ivory-Ismail Merchant team, presents Maurice in a new 4K scan and restoration from the original camera negative and magnetic soundtrack, and featuring a new 5.1 audio mix from the stereo 35mm mags, approved by director James Ivory.
Written in 1914 by E.M. Forster, Maurice was the second of his novels to be adapted by Merchant Ivory, following 1986’s Oscar nominated A Room with a View.
First published in 1971, a year after Forster’s death, the novel takes on a subject that no major writer in the genre had ever addressed: the problem of coming of age as a homosexual in a restrictive society.
Maurice was co-written for the screen by director James Ivory and first-time feature writer Kit Hesketh-Harvey (marking a rare instance that Ivory did not collaborate with his usual writing partner Ruth Prawer Jhabvala). Hesketh-Harvey, best known as a musical performer, composer and translator, was a Cambridge graduate and thus familiar with the novel’s milieu.
Starring James Wilby (Maurice) and Hugh Grant (Clive) as two Cambridge undergraduates who fall in love, Maurice is set amidst the hypocritical homoerotic subculture of the English university in Forster’s time. In an environment in which any reference to ” the unspeakable vice of the Greeks” is omitted, and any overture toward a physical relationship between men might be punishable by law, Maurice and Clive struggle to come to terms with their own feelings toward each other and toward a repressive community.
After their friend Lord Risley (Mark Tandy) is arrested and sentenced to six months of hard labor after soliciting sex from a soldier, Clive abandons his forbidden love and marries a young woman. Maurice, however, struggles with questions of his identity and self-confidence, seeking the help of a hypnotist (Ben Kingsley) to rid himself of his undeniable urges.
But while staying with Clive and his shallow wife, Anne (Phoebe Nicholls), Maurice attracts the attention of Alec Scudder (Rupert Graves), the under-gamekeeper. Alec then leaves his family in order to stay with Maurice, whom he tells, “Now we shan’t never be parted.”
The film had its world premiere at the 1987 Venice Film Fest, where Ivory was awarded a Silver Lion as Best Director, sharing the prize with Italian filmmaker Ermanno Olmi for Long Live the Lady!.
James Wilby and Hugh Grant were jointly awarded Best Actor, and composer Richard Robbins received the Golden Osella prize for his score.
The film also received an Oscar nomination for Best Costume Design, by Jenny Beavan & John Bright.
Decades later, Maurice remains an outstandingly acted period drama, its themes of repression, dignity, compromise and love in the face of persecution still are as relevant today as they were in the 1980s and, as they were when E.M. Forster penned his novel a century ago.