Video Pick: Cotton Mary

VIDEO PICK

Cotton Mary (R) Although he's long been identified as the producing half of the Merchant-Ivory team, Ismail Merchant has over the past decade proven himself a capable director in his own right. Cotton Mary is not only Merchant's finest film but one of the very finest in the entire Merchant-Ivory canon. Madhur Jaffrey (who also serves as co-director) stars as Cotton Mary, a class-conscious Anglo-Indian woman who becomes a nanny in the home of a young English couple and then proceeds to reinvent herself as she sets her sights on taking over the household. The film is by turns funny, tragic and infinitely wise in creating a rich, delicately nuanced world (Southern India circa 1950) and then populating that world with a host of wonderfully complex and memorable characters. Cotton Mary offers one surprise and subtle delight after another, and Alexandra Viets' screenplay is a quietly stunning portrait of the love-hate relationship between cultures and societies in post-colonial India. Also starring Greta Scacchi, James Wilby and Sakina Jaffrey.

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