Login

The Proprietor Review

Image for The Proprietor

Troubled by recurrent thoughts of the mother murdered by the Nazis, exiled author Adrienne Mark quits her cosy New York existence when the Paris home of her childhood comes up for auction. Her return coincides with the arrival of a brash American producer who hopes to give one of Adrienne's bestsellers the Hollywood treatment

★★★★★

In his second directorial outing, Ismail Merchant returns to the themes of his debut picture, In Custody, and is once more preoccupied with the relentless march of time and the problem of coming to terms with the past. But once again the result is an interesting misfire rather than the sort of polished entertainment he invariably produces with longtime partner James Ivory.

Troubled by recurrent thoughts of the mother murdered by the Nazis, exiled author Adrienne Mark (Moreau) quits her cosy New York existence when the Paris home of her childhood comes up for auction. Her return coincides with the arrival of a brash American producer (Young) who hopes to give one of Adrienne's bestsellers the Hollywood treatment.

And that's about it plotwise. Hearts flutter without much passion, resolutions are made and there are around a dozen of the clumsiest flashbacks you'll ever see as events drift to their conclusion with aimless inevitability typical of films in which character, atmosphere and nuance are the order of the day. There's a sly dig at film critics who consider subtitles to be a guarantee of class and a nice spoof on Indian musicals in which the characters burst into song the moment they stray into a picturesque location. But the remainder is all about interpreting the inner emotions registered on Moreau's face.

All this would be fine if Merchant was not so prone to preciousness. Many of the cast are old friends and this perhaps explains his reluctance to curb some of their excesses. But too many scenes are tainted by a mixture of twilight tweeness and cultural snobbery, which make this a perfect picture for ageing middlebrows, leaving everybody else to admire the pretty pictures and Moreau's engaging performance.

a perfect picture for ageing middlebrows, leaving everybody else to admire the pretty pictures and Moreau's engaging performance