THE CITY OF YOUR FINAL DESTINATION is the first Merchant Ivory film to be released without the involvement of the late Ismail Merchant. Cinephiles have not always favored the determinedly literary and so, the argument goes, un-cinematic Merchant-Ivory franchise (James Ivory being its other half), but I have usually found the bookish pace engrossing and elegant.
This one, from a novel by Peter Cameron, tells the story of a graduate student’s attempt to obtain rights to an authorized biography by traveling to the late writer’s homestead in Uruguay. The result is genuinely literate, not just by virtue of its theme, but in its well-drawn acting (who is more reliable than Laura Linney, more and more interesting from role to role than Charlotte Gainsbourg, and better when at his best than Anthony Hopkins?) and unforced pace.
It produces with especial potency an effect that the best literature often does, which is to make one feel that other lives than our own are possible, that they are there, potentially if without guarantee, to be lived, if one finds them, or they come to you, or you manage to invent them, or accept them if they are offered.
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