Article #1078 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-26-2004
Posting Date: 7-25-2004
Directed by James Ivory
Featuring Lewis J. Stadlen, Anne Francine, Thayer David
The movie opens with several primitive natives (the Mud People) frolicking (if that is the correct word) around the forest. They are distracted from their activities (such as they are) by a croquet ball. This eventually leads them to a deserted mansion, which they then inhabit. They place the croquet ball in a container in front of a statue, and then try on the clothes they see lying around.
At this point, the savages become civilized; I originally though that the action had switched to the present (due to the abruptness of the transition), but I have since been informed that such is not the case. Still, one would think things would start making more sense at this point, but no such luck. The residents talk with each other, play croquet, mate, perform odd rituals, have a dinner party, play cellos, drown, dance to “Sitting on the Spaniel”, commit suicide, and finally vanish into the woods hitting their croquet balls ahead of them. I hope I haven’t given away the plot.
So what we have here is one of those abstract films along the lines of BLOOD OF A POET and INAUGURATION OF THE PLEASURE DOME. No, I can’t explain it, but I do have to admit it held my attention throughout, though your mileage may vary. It’s a Merchant Ivory Production, and though I’ve never actually seen one of their movies previous to this one, this is certainly not what I would have expected from what I’ve heard about them (other than the fact that the movie was destined for the artier houses). It’s probably a fantasy, but that’s most likely because it isn’t anything else. The cast features Sam Waterston and Ultra Violet, and the script was co-written by Michael O’Donoghue, who would later produce “Saturday Night Live”.