HEAT AND DUST - Golden Oldies Finally On DVD
HEAT AND DUST
For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Nov. 16, 2018
EDITOR’S NOTE: Before coming up with such international Oscar-winning blockbusters as ‘A Room With a View,’ “Howards End’ and “The Remains of the Day,’ the Merchant-Ivory folks came up with this little gem, which has just received a Blu-ray upgrade from the boutique label, Cohen Film Collection. Here’s my review, published Feb. 24, 1984, in the Desert News.
“Heat and Dust” is hot, but not dusty, an intriguing look at passion and deceit amid the sand dunes of India, in both the 1920s and modern times.
Julie Christie, who has been away from films far too long, stars in the modern-day narrative as Anne, a woman who is obsessed with the past, especially as it relates to her free-spirited Aunt Olivia (Greta Scacchi). Anne interviews the elderly Harry (Nikolas Grace), who was a friend of her aunt’s and who became involved in the events that led to a scandal among the Britons stationed with the Army in India in the 1920s.
She discovers that Olivia, though the wife of a tradition-bound military man, Douglas Rivers (Christopher Cazenove), was unable to fit in with the rest of the military wives at the post and found herself drawn to the romantic ideal of India. She was also drawn to the Prince of the State, The Nawab (Shashi Kapoor), which led to a torrid affair — and the aforementioned scandal.
Shashi Kapoor, Greta Scacchi, 'Heat and Dust'
After interviewing Harry, Anne travels to India to see where it all happened and she runs into a number of interesting characters herself, including an American (Charles McCaughan) who is looking for spiritual peace, and Inder Lal (Zakir Hussain), the head of the household where she is staying, and with whom she begins an affair.
The two stories are not told in linear fashion, but instead blend together with scenes from the ’80s juxtaposed with scenes from the ’20s. The idea is to offer a parallel between the lives of Anne and Olivia, and that turns out to be one of the film’s difficulties. The jumping back and forth in time is occasionally frustrating, with the audience just getting interested in one story when it switches to the other.
And except for the R-rated explicitness of certain scenes, “Heat and Dust” resembles, in truncated form, one of those British miniseries we so often see on Public Television. Occasionally there seems to be something missing and sometimes the pace is too slow. Had it been cut into a couple of one-hour chunks, with one long flashback bookended by Anne’s story, the narrative might have worked better.
As it is, “Heat and Dust” is not the great epic romance that was attempted but it is still a very enjoyable one. The use of India locations is fabulous (and should be especially so to snowbound Utahns), the photography and sets are gorgeous, and the actors are uniformly excellent.
Christie is wonderful, though hers is hardly the lead role, and Shashi Kapoor and Greta Scacchi are very good together. Also particularly good is Nickolas Grace as Harry, a man torn between the role he would like in life and the one he must choose.
The film tends to play fast and loose with our romanticized idea of India but there is a nice sense of storytelling here and a calm, quiet, almost moody reverence to the overall tone of the film
Obviously, my feelings about “Heat and Dust” are mixed but if the premise interests you, you will more than likely enjoy it.
Though rated R — and deserving of that rating, for sex and nudity, some profanity and sex jokes — the explicitness here is not quite as graphic or gratuitous as most R-rated movies these days.