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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Cotton Mary
Cotton Mary
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Review by Aaron Beierle | posted January 22, 2001 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

Although the box says a "Merchant/Ivory" production, "Cotton Mary" only involves Ismail Merchant, the usual producer who here, serves as director. "Cotton Mary" opens with a British woman named Lily giving birth to her child, but having no milk to feed her. The nurse at the hospital, Mary, finds milk elsewhere, although the British woman doesn't seem interested in where.

As a Anglo-Indian woman, Mary feels lacking any social-status in the 1950's period. As a result, she becomes more and more a part of the life of the woman that she just helped to give birth. She convinces Lily to let her move into her household and from there, she takes further control. Meanwhile, Lily's husband seems uninterested in his duties as a husband and it's only a matter of time before he might stray.

Although the film involves several very talented actors, such as Greta Sacchi as Lily and Madhur Jaffrey as Mary, "Cotton Mary" still comes across as a less-than-satisfying dramatic effort. Although Jaffrey brings a fine performance as the unlikable Mary, there's really not enough story here to justify the slightly over 2 hour running time; as a result, sections begin to drag out. Characters intentions aren't always made completely clear, either. Although we can clearly see that Mary's intentions in taking over the house aren't particularly good, I didn't quite understand why she was let to stay in the house after her intentions become more obvious.

The fact that none of this seems to be played for drama makes scenes that should have had more energy to them rather flat and uninvolving. Although the Merchant/Ivory team has made some very fine films in the past, Merchant working alone here doesn't succeed in making "Cotton Mary" that interesting.


The DVD

VIDEO: Universal presents "Cotton Mary" in a rather enjoyable 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer. It does present some minor concerns, but overall presents the film's beautiful scenery appropriately. Sharpness seemed to vary slightly as some scenes in the movie had a little bit of a softer feel to them, although this may have been by intent. Darker scenes throughout the movie are a little too murky at times, although this is probably due to the filmmakers.

Aside from the softness, there were some other minor issues. Print flaws weren't major, but there is a consistent amount of small speckles that turned up every so often throughout the movie. A couple of slight instances of pixelation were noticed, but shouldn't prove to be distracting.

Colors seem natural but not particularly bold, keeping with a more subdued palette for most of the movie, but offering some warmer colors for some of the outdoor sequences. Overall, I thought this was an acceptable presentation from Universal, but nothing too remarkable.

SOUND: The movie is presented in English Dolby 2.0, and really, it doesn't particularly need any audio fireworks. The film is mainly all dialogue & music and on that level, the sound succeeds. The lovely score sounds rich and crisp, and dialogue is clear and easily understood. Although not greatly detailed, the outdoor scenes contain a nice amount of ambient sounds.

MENUS:: Like most small Universal titles, the menus are not animated, but I was suprised to find the score playing behind the main menu.

EXTRAS: The trailer.

Final Thoughts: "Cotton Mary" might be worth a rental for fans of Merchant/Ivory, but I found it to be rather dissapointing. Universal's DVD provides the basics, but no more than that.

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