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Review: Howard’s End 4K Restoration

The most interesting part of watching the 4K restoration of Merchant / Ivory’s glorious Howard’s End isn’t the 4K restoration. Sure, the film looks wonderful, though the 1992 version probably would have sufficed.

However, any excuse to watch Howard’s End in a theatre is a great one, especially since in many ways, the film feels as though it’s out of time, both now and perhaps even at the time it was first released.

The idea of adapting a book from 1910 in 1992 seems like a pretty timely proposal. Though it was doubtfully the intention, 1992 saw the first election in England that featured a new direction for the country after Thatcher had resigned. Though the election was thought to be close, Tory John Major won in a landslide. This suggests that the country as a whole needed a film like Howard’s End which at its beating heart, demonstrated a deep gulf between men and women and especially of the haves and the have nots. The film couldn’t have felf more timely, (yes, despite being based on eighty-year-old source material), because it’s a deep reveal into the biases that remain, especially in 2016.

Playing the role of the biggest monster of them all is Henry Wilcox (played by Anthony Hopkins). The role is in many ways subtle because at his core, he is the nominal protagonist of the film, despite not appearing until almost halfway through, and even then not doing anything truly antagonistic. But it’s a fascinating transition from the role of the monstrous Hannibal Lecter, because there is evil at the fringes of this part. Better still is that there are some incredible performers in this film, and at their primes to boot, (Emma Thompson is a well-deserved Oscar winner, Helena Bonham Carter is fantastic, Vanessa Redgrave, come on!) and this is alongside Hopkins, who really resonates in a less splashy role.

Of course, the film looks great in terms of its wide angles, and the greenery of the estate holds a sense of promise into the future. It’s not a perfect story (perhaps little too languid), but there’s so much vibrancy at its edges that this seems to hardly matter. It’s an adult film in that its mores are subtle, (it’s filled with sense and sensibility) and feels like a vision for the country that still hasn’t been achieved. The End isn’t nigh.

[star v=4]