“Maurice” is a small, indie film, but a landmark for gay cinema.
Released in 1987 during the AIDS crisis and decades before “Brokeback Mountain,” the film, which is set in pre-World War I England at the University of Cambridge, is provocative and unabashed in celebrating gay male love. The movie is based on E.M Forster’s novel of the same name, which was written in 1914.
Also, in a refreshing change of pace, the film has a happy ending, instead of the usual tragic finale.
Director James Ivory, who co-wrote the script with first-time feature writer Kit Hesketh-Harvey, approved the restoration. Two years earlier, Ivory directed “A Room With a View,” which is based on the Forster book that’s set in early 20th century England and follows a young woman who falls in love with a free-spirited young man.
In a phone interview with Q Voice News, from his New York City apartment, Ivory, 88, talks about why he wanted to make the movie, the restored film and the actors response to playing gay characters. Here are some excerpts.
On the 30th anniversary restoration release
“There had to be a restoration. Films aren’t shown any more in theaters. After 30 years, the negative might be in bad condition: battered, dirty, ripped, have discoloration. That’s likely to happen,” Ivory said.
“They removed all the dirt and scratches, and you end up with a beautiful 4K restoration, which is what we are getting. They look wonderful,” Ivory said. “You’re working from the original negative. In that way, it’s rather thrilling.”
On why he wanted to make the movie
“I read all of Forster’s books. When I read ‘Maurice,’ it was the other side of the coin to ‘A Room With a View’,” Ivory said. “The muddle young people get into with living a lie. Maurice was in love with Clive, but he was having to live a lie.”
On the actors response to playing gay characters
“These young actors were getting lead roles. They weren’t worried about playing gay characters,” Ivory said.
“I always think it’s interesting when a gay actor won’t play a gay part. That’s kind of a muddle,” Ivory said. “Actors know who’s gay, that gets around. But when you hear about a gay actor who won’t play a gay part, I think that’s living a lie.”
On the film receiving enormous critical acclaim
“The film came out in the midst of the AIDS crisis. People were afraid to say anything negative about it,” Ivory said. “There was nothing negative about it being an openly gay movie with a happy ending. Writers didn’t dare say anything negative. It surprised me a little bit.”