Cohen Film Collection starts the New Year off with another gem: Merchant Ivory Productions’ modern classic Heat and Dust, now on Blu-ray, DVD and digital platforms. The 1983 multi-generational drama—about the clash between modern-day India and its past Raj era of British rule, and starring Julie Christie and Greta Scacchi—has received a striking new 4K digital restoration.
Merchant Ivory’s magnificent film moves effortlessly between the vibrant world of modern India and the magnificent splendors of the Raj. Cross-cutting between two generations, the acclaimed film by the longtime team of director James Ivory, producer Ismail Merchant and screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala is a sprawling epic of self-discovery and a lush evocation of the prismatic and sensuous beauty of India.
As she searches for answers to the mystery surrounding a long-ago affair between her aunt Olivia (portrayed by Greta Scacchi) and an Indian prince (Shashi Kapoor), Anne (Julie Christie) becomes immersed in the local culture, the pull of the past simultaneously leading her into a clearer view of her own future. Jhabvala adapted her own novel to great effect, and Richard Robbins created the haunting score. The film earned the Merchant Ivory team nine BAFTA nominations and a Palme d’Or nomination at Cannes for director Ivory.
Cohen Film Collection has given Heat and Dustlavish treatment on disc. The two-disc DVD includes a feature-length audio commentary track; the film’s original trailer as well as its 2017 re-release trailer; and the the rarely shown 1975 Merchant Ivory film Autobiography of a Princess, starring James Mason.
The two-disc Blu-ray includes all of the above plus an interview with producer Ismail Merchant, director James Ivory, writer Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, composer Richard Robbins, and cast members Greta Scacchi and Nickolas Grace; the featurette Remember Heat and Dust; a new conversation between Ivory and filmmaker Chris Terrio; and a new on-stage Q&A with co-star Madhur Jaffrey.
It’s a film ripe for rediscovery. While Mike Nichols was shooting scenes with Jack Nicholson, Art Garfunkel, and Candice Bergen at what was then known as Folkestone Studios in West Vancouver for Carnal Knowledge. Nearby, Robert Altman and his crew were building Presbyterian Church, an actual Old West mining town for his period western, McCabe & Mrs. Miller, starring the then real-life couple, Warren Beatty and Julie Christie. Remember René Auberjonois? The man best-known for the Broadway musical flop Coco and who appeared in the Altman film says McCabe & Mrs. Miller is the best film he’s ever been in. “That is the one that will be on my tombstone,” he coos.
With its fascinating flawed characters, evocative cinematography by the great Vilmos Zsigmond, and soundtrack that innovatively interweaves overlapping dialogue and haunting Leonard Cohen songs, McCabe & Mrs. Miller brilliantly deglamorized and revitalized the most American of genres. The screenplay is based on Edmund Naughton’s 1959 novel McCabe; Altman referred to it as an “anti-western film” because the film ignores or subverts a number of Western conventions.
So important is McCabe & Mrs. Miller that in 2010, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant”.Criterion is releasing the flick on Blu-ray and DVD on October 11.
SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES
* New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
* Audio commentary from 2002 featuring director Robert Altman and producer David Foster
* New documentary on the making of the film, featuring actors René Auberjonois, Keith Carradine, and Michael Murphy; casting director Graeme Clifford; and script supervisor Joan Tewkesbury
* New conversation about the film and Altman’s career between film historians Cari Beauchamp and Rick Jewell
* Featurette from the film’s production, shot on location in 1970
* Q&A from 1999 with production designer Leon Ericksen, hosted by the Art Directors Guild Film Society
* Archival footage from interviews with cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond, in which he discusses his work on the film
* Gallery of stills from the set by photographer Steve Schapiro
* Excerpts from two 1971 episodes of The Dick Cavett Show featuring Altman and film critic Pauline Kael
* Essay by film critic Nathaniel Rich
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