Judy Davis, A Passage to India

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Pauline Kael

“As Miss Quested, Judy Davis has none of the bloom that she had in My Brilliant Career; she's pale and a trace remote--repression has given her a slightly slugged quality about the eyes. But she's still very attractive in Western terms. Her broad-brimmed hats and virginal, straight-cut dresses are simple and uncoquettish. You like watching her--she has an unusual physical quiet, and her mouth is very expressive (despite the brick-colored lipstick she wears throughout). And it's clear that India represents her first chance to live. She longs for adventure, though she's frightened of it. And she's drawn to Dr. Azia, though she doesn't know how to get closer to him. So it isn't until the trial that we register that to the Indians she looks tall, flat-chested, and sexually undesirable. To them the charge of attempted rape is something of an insult to Dr. Aziz's taste. All along, there's a lascivious fear that runs through the proper behavior of the British--a fear of India's voluptuous erotic traditions…. [see what's left out, and then see how it also might make more sense to leave some of the preceding out] …. Judy Davis's performance is close to perfection; her last scene (in England) is a little skewed, but that's no more than a flyspeck. [I liked it.] Despite her moment of hysteria, this Miss Quested is a heroically honest figure who, in testifying as she does at the trial, escapes being raped of her soul by Ronny and the British colonial community.

“As Mrs. Moore, Peggy Ashcroft comes through with a piece of transcendent acting. She has to, because Mrs. Moore is meant to be a saint, a sage, a woman in tune with the secrets of eternity….”

Pauline Kael
The New Yorker, January 14, 1985
State of the Art, pp 302-303
[check over review?]

Stanley Kauffmann

“First, the actors. I think first of them when I think of this film--something I expect to happen recurrently. The principals in A Passage to India do something more than embody what I had always imagined about E. M. Forster's characters. Their art goes some way toward re-creating in another medium the reticent strength of Forster's prose; their acting invites our collaboration in much the same manner as his prose.

“Judy Davis, the Australian who linked arms with the world in My Brilliant Career, is perfect as Adela Quested. An attractive woman, she is actress enough to convey an unattractive woman who becomes attractive through our experience of her. Temperamentally, she embodies the social conditioning intended as proof against uncertainties, along with the uncertainties that made the conditioning necessary.

“… Mrs. Moore… is Peggy Ashcroft… [H]er death in the film is not acting, it is loss….”

Stanley Kauffmann
The New Republic, Jan. 21, 1985
Field of View, p 269

James Wolcott

“Judy Davis has an interesting set to her mouth--she seems to be both withholding secrets and promising a bitch of trouble. Her enigmatic smile, sexually repressed and sexually bold, serves as the perfect emblem for David Lean's A Passage to India….

“Certainly Lean rings the notes he desires from his cast (the best he's had since Lawrence of Arabia)….”

James Wolcott
Vanity Fair, February 1985

David Denby

“My only serious complaint is that Judy Davis, the fiery young Australian actress who starred in My Brilliant Career, is almost too attractive and self-possessed to play a girl as queer and confused as Adela. Davis, freckled, with a rounded upper lip and a thrusting lower one, has some of the taut, demanding quality of the young Julie Christie. She's a good actress, and perhaps a commanding temperament, but she's not convincing as a repressed virgin.”

David Denby
New York, January 7, 1985
[only skimmed whole thing]


Judy Davis
A Passage to India 1984

[Am I discriminating against male actors w/ Kael & Kauffmann, by including Ashcroft but not them?]