Quartet (1981) - Rotten Tomatoes

Quartet (1981)

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Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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Movie Info

No relation to the 1949 Somerset Maugham "omnibus" film of the same name, 1981's Quartet is based on the roman a clef by Jean Rhys. Though the names are changed, it is clearly the story of Rhys' romance with Ford Maddox Ford in 1920s Paris. The titular quartet consists of novelist Isabelle Adjani, her Polish husband Anthony Higgins, wealthy philanderer Alan Bates and Bates' artist wife Maggie Smith. Though she's been indulgent of Higgins's past indiscretions, Smith isn't keen on her husband carrying on an affair with Adjani under their own roof. Meanwhile, Higgins sits in prison, jailed for his various petty thefts. Once Higgins is released, he learns about the Bates-Adjani-Smith contretemps. When the dust settles, it is Adjani who suffers the most.

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Cast

Alan Bates
as H.J. Heidler
Maggie Smith
as Lois Heidler
Isabelle Adjani
as Marya Zelli
Anthony Higgins
as Stephan Zelli
Armelia McQueen
as Nell, Singer
Daniel Mesguich
as Pierre Schlamovitz
Bernice Stegers
as Miss Nicholson
Suzanne Flon
as Mme. Hautchamp, Concierge
Virginie Thévenet
as Mlle. Chardin
Romain Bremond
as Adolescent
Humbert Balsan
as Impresario's Friend
Serge Marquand
as Night Club Owner
Pierre Julien
as Impresario
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Critic Reviews for Quartet

All Critics (16) | Top Critics (5)

"Quartet" retains its power to unsettle in its accumulation of cuts and bruises, the rare Merchant-Ivory-Jhabvala effort that mines a glamorized past not for nuanced dignity but for a kind of elegant, honest sordidness.

May 16, 2019 | Full Review…

Ivory's interest is focused so completely on the period clothes and decor that the drama never surfaces.

May 16, 2019 | Full Review…

Ivory takes his usual aloofly observant distance and the film's love triangle loses some drastic impetus.

March 26, 2009 | Full Review…

The direction, intimate yet retaining a sense of distance, is true both to Rhys and to Ivory.

February 9, 2006 | Full Review…

''Quartet'' is handsome but, ultimately, weightless.

August 30, 2004 | Full Review…

The final scene confirms, I think, the weakness of the cinema artist who must rely on vision where the writer would add depth.

May 26, 2020 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Quartet

[font=Century Gothic]In "Quartet," it is Paris, 1927, and Marya's(Isabelle Adjani) husband, Stephan(Anthony Higgins), an art dealer, has just been sentenced to a year of jail and expulsion from France for theft, leaving her with no visible means of support.(Marya had once tried to be a showgirl but it did not work out.) A wealthy couple of English art patrons, Lois(Maggie Smith) and H.J.(Alan Bates), offer to take her in, even though Lois knows so little about her. But H.J. knows her well enough to put his hand on her knee...Marya agrees even though she is warned by a friend about a possible scandal involving them.[/font] [font=Century Gothic][/font] [font=Century Gothic]"Quartet" is not a bad movie and much less polite than the usual Merchant Ivory production. There is even a bit of bite in this tale of expatriates in Paris, all taking from the city but giving nothing in return. Lois and H.J. act like they are slumming but are wealthy enough to exploit the city for their own purposes. Stephan is selling French art treasures to collectors abroad. And Marya is at their mercy. So, you can see, there are definitely elements of an intriguing and provocative movie in place but it never quite comes together due to a lack of boldness, along with pedestrian directing and editing. [/font]

Walter M.
Walter M.

Super Reviewer

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