The Proprietor

This long, intricately woven film concerns Adrienne Mark, a famous French writer, long resident in New York, who renews her flagging self-belief through the reacquisition of her old family house in Paris, stolen by a Nazi collaborator whom her mother had trusted. On its deepest level this is an oblique tribute by Ismail Merchant to his scriptwriter of 35 years, the author Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, who as a child quit her native Cologne, as the earth began to shake in the prelude to WWII, for the start of what was to become a life marked by a sense of 'dispossession'. Written by George Trow, who worked on the surreal Savages for Merchant Ivory in 1972, and Jean-Marie Besset, the story discourses on the necessity of not standing still, following your heart and not compromising your principles. Above all, however, it's about the duties of friendship, which take precedence over even the custodianship of true works of art: exemplified here by a portrait of Adrienne as a child, given by the author to her New York maid (Carter, superb), as a parting present and then returned to enable Adrienne to reclaim her past. The film is unified by the calm, regal presence of Jeanne Moreau, who keeps her head while all about her seem close to losing theirs in a scrabble of intrigue, crossed love affairs, and the hurly burly of a contentious film remake of one of Adrienne's books. Delightful and, at the close, very affecting.

Release details

Duration: 113 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Ismail Merchant
Screenwriter: Jean-Marie Besset, George Swift Trow
Cast: Jeanne Moreau
Sean Young
Sam Waterston
Nell Carter
Austin Pendleton
Pierre Vaneck
Christopher Cazenove
Jean-Pierre Aumont
Marc Tissot
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