Merchant Ivory – genius fuelled by chaos

“Great work can come out of chaos” is one of the themes of a new warts-and-all film about the work of Merchant Ivory, at one point box-office titans behind sumptuous period masterpieces like Remains of the Day, A Room With a View, Maurice and Howards End. The polished, upper class mien of their films was in complete contrast to the ‘blood-curdling bust-ups’ between the partners in their private lives as they swapped partners; and on set as they ran out of money and refused to pay the actors. But none of that appeared on screen. Their films launched the careers of Hugh Grant, Helena Bonham Carter, Rupert Graves and Julian Sands, made stars of Emma Thompson and Daniel Day-Lewis. ‘The roaring trade in Jane Austen adaptations might never have happened without them. You could even blame Merchant Ivory for Bridgerton.’

 The atmosphere on set was often fraught and one friend said of Ismail Merchant, described as a “conman” with a “bazaar mentality” – “You never went to bed without dreaming of ways to kill him. But you couldn’t not love him.” The documentary also makes a case for Ivory as an underrated advocate for gay representation. It was their gay love story Maurice that was their riskiest undertaking coming as it did in 1987 at the height of the Aids crisis. After The Remains of the Day was  nominated for eight Oscars, the brand faltered and was dismissed by the director Alan Parker as representing “the Laura Ashley school” of cinema.

 Producer Ismail Merchant, 25 December 1936, Bombay and Director James Ivory 7 June 1928 Berkeley, California. Merchant is a confident and ambitious Sun Jupiter in Capricorn trine Uranus; with a creative Saturn opposition Neptune square a Sagittarius North Node; and an intense Mercury opposition Pluto. And a Taurus Moon.

 Ivory was a Sun Venus in Gemini sextile an excitable Mars and Uranus in Aries and opposition Saturn; with his Mars in an ultra-determined square to Pluto.

  On the synastry there was not a strong connection apart from both having Venus in an Air sign and Ivory’s Moon maybe in Aquarius to match Merchant’s Venus. And a lucky Jupiter Uranus cross over.  On the relationship chart, however, there was almost certainly a composite New Moon = more whole when together; as well as an ever-optimistic Jupiter opposition Neptune. Both of which would hold their partnership together. And what would threaten to blow it apart regularly was a composite Pluto opposition Mars square Uranus – OK for a trailblazing partnership but not exactly harmonious. Blood-curdling sounds about right.  

2 thoughts on “Merchant Ivory – genius fuelled by chaos

  1. Ivory has a part time home in upstate NY next to where my MIL used to live. He was always gracious to her, inviting her and her mother to various parties and events he held in the mansion, but she felt funny and stayed home. Sun Venus makes sense. I think he likes the finer things in life, inside of his mansion is very nice (pictures of it online). I think I had heard he was quite tenacious, Mars/Pluto, from his groundskeeper! Merchant was a good cook, wrote a cookbook they gave to her. Makes sense w/ a Taurus Moon.

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