The far-flung projects of independent director/producer team Ivory and Merchant have resulted in films ranging from the staggeringly pretentious to the absorbingly informative. This trilogy of short stories set in the famed New York ballroom could easily have suffered from Ivory's most irritating characteristic as a director: an aloof condescension to the weaknesses of even his most sympathetic characters. Moreover, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala's script suffers from an obvious 'literariness', although its subtle, sharp and sympathetic qualities make the film surprisingly likeable. As do the patently sincere performances (which avoid mawkishness) and, most important, the themes rarely touched upon in commercial cinema: the loneliness, decay, and tenaciously held illusions of impending old age.
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