Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The City of You Final Destination (Rhoades)

Is “City” Merchant Ivory’s Final Destination?

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

Publish or perish, that’s the rule in the world of academia. That’s why Dr. David Sumner of Ball State co-authored a book on the magazine industry with me. In fact, he’s written several textbooks and treatises. I’ve written three college textbooks and I was only an adjunct professor at New York University.

So when a grad student named Omar (Omar Metwally) wins a grant to pen an authorized biography of a deceased Latin American novelist, the young academic is frustrated that the heirs turn him down. It’s hard to take no when his pushy girlfriend and a fellow egghead are urging him on. So he doggedly shows up on a doorstep in a remote region of Uruguay, hoping to change the family’s mind.

No go. The writer’s widow (Laura Linney, terrific as usual) adamantly refuses to give him her permission. She doesn’t want her husband’s suicide rehashed in print.

But there’s a glimmer of hope when the author’s greedy brother (Anthony Hopkins) opines that such a biography might stimulate future book sales.

Unfortunately, the dead writer’s mistress (Charlotte Gainsbourg) sides with the widow, blocking publication … until she falls for our boy Omar. That just might be a game changer.

That’s the proposition of “City of Your Final Destination,” currently playing at the Tropic Cinema.
Directed by three-time-Academy Award-nominee James Ivory (“The Remains of the Day,” “A Room With a View,” “Howard's End”), this quest film comes with a great pedigree. This is the first Merchant Ivory film produced without the late Ismail Merchant.

Filmed in 2006, “City of Your Final Destination” has had a checkered history and has just now been released.
First, Merchant passed away following surgery for abdominal ulcers. “Some very mysterious things happened,” Ivory says of producing a film without the help of his longtime partner. “Things to do with banks and loans. Financiers just disappeared. He was used to dealing with those kinds of events, and I had never had to before.”

Then Anthony Hopkins filed a lawsuit against Merchant Ivory claiming he had not been paid for his work on the film. “That all was taken care of,” says Ivory. “We couldn’t pay him. Nothing to hide. When we left Argentina, we were beginning to run out of money, and he had come to work and finished, and naturally he wanted to be paid, but we didn’t have any money to pay him with.”

Also veteran Merchant Ivory producer Richard Hawley filed a writ that his name had been forged to a contract reducing his fees and that he was ousted as the film’s producer. Ivory’s lawyer denied the allegations, saying the company would “vigorously defend the matter.”

Hopefully, Merchant Ivory’s money problems will go away if “City of Your Final Destination” finds an audience. Combustible Celluloid opines that the film clocks in as Ivory’s best movie in some time,” but Rotten Tomatoes calls it “dusty and dry.” Almost like an academic thesis.

Anthony Hopkins once asked the late Ismail Merchant where he found the money to produce films. “Wherever it is now,” he replied.

James Ivory take note.
[from Solares Hill]

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