The Academy Award-winning director of A Room with a View and The Remains of the Day looks back on an eventful life, from his privileged childhood, through film school, though his storied career in Hollywood.
... a collection of stories from a remarkable life and a glittering career...showcases Mr. Ivory’s caustic wit ... Solid Ivory may not make...naysayers see the light and acknowledge the supreme artistry of Howards End,A Room With a View and The Remains of the Day. However, they, along with the rest of us, may well be charmed and edified by Mr. Ivory’s insightful selection of scenes from memory and his absorbing self-portrait of an artist ... One standout section entitled 'Making Movies' offers a fascinating look at Mr. Ivory’s craft ... The section called 'Portraits'...[is] somewhat disappointing ... And yet despite these shortcomings there is still a lot to admire here ... candid, informative and infused with warmth, verve and humor. Sit back and enjoy a series of well-executed master shots and captivating close-ups.
I wasn’t expecting his memoirs to be quite such a 'Remembrance of Penises Past' ... There is a wistful defiance to his sexual frankness as a Protestant gay man who came of age in an era of intense repression ... He spills it not in the typical big autobiographical splash but in dribs and drabs: letters, diary entries, tumbling sense-memories of fashion, food and furniture (and the other F-word), with scores of appealingly casual photographs sprinkled throughout. An established master of the slow reveal, Ivory serves gossip with a voile overlay ... more of a scrapbook of finely wrought prose sketches than the fully carved self-sculpture suggested by its title, whose touching origin story I won’t spoil ... It’s all very effectively spliced together here, but with occasional lapses in continuity ... This book does tend to skirt over or even coldly aestheticize unpleasant truths ... But I now look at the famous scene in A Room With a View that so embarrassed me as a young teen, naked men splashing full-frontally at a swimming hole, in a new and dappling light.
It is this sense of perspective, good humor, and a willingness to go with the flow that shines through in his writing. Ivory’s book makes for a charming, yet unconventional, entertainment industry memoir ... Readers looking for a typical Hollywood 'tell-all' should look elsewhere, because this is not that kind of celebrity autobiography. It is best to consider the experience of reading Solid Ivory as the opportunity to allow a prolific independent artist to share his insights ... As with any storytelling that isn’t strictly chronological, the book can sometimes feel a bit meandering. But Ivory’s descriptions of his experience as an out gay man during the mid-20th century is more than enough reward for some sections that might leave readers scratching their heads ... The most refreshing aspect of his memoir is the author’s outsider perspective of modern Hollywood conventions, such as the focus placed on awards. His detailing of the making of Call Me By Your Name is one of the most fascinating sections ... The sections dealing with Merchant flow cohesively, expressing hidden depths of emotion with restraint just as their best films do ... At times, I found the flow of the book to be steady, if uneven. Many anecdotes rely on the fact that the reader is familiar with the people who were part of Ivory’s social circle (footnotes are included when explanation is deemed necessary.) There is very little discussion of the making of specific Merchant Ivory films. The focus remains solidly on Ivory and the experiences that formed him. At first, I was resistant to this style; I wanted more gossip and behind-the-scenes drama, but as I continued reading, I realized that wasn’t the point. Much like his films, Solid Ivory unfolds at its own speed, revealing stylistically beautiful and generous portraits of the personalities, locations, and events that shaped James Ivory. In our current age, so focused on measurable success, Solid Ivory reminded me that storytelling should be the most important thing to an artist. Art exists to illuminate life, and what greater creation is there than the life we build with the people close to us?