THE PURSUIT OF STUFFINESS

THOMAS JEFFERSON'S LIFE HAD PLENTY OF DRAMATIC MATERIAL, BUT JEFFERSON IN PARIS IS IN TOO MUCH TASTEFUL AWE OF ITS SUBJECT

ONE DAY LONG AGO, HARRY Cohn, the legendary film mogul, found himself contemplating the minuscule grosses of some historical epic set in the 18th century and decreed that henceforth no picture emanating from his studio would feature men in wigs and knee breeches writing with quill pens.

Jefferson in Paris brings this bit of vulgar wisdom back to mind. Regrettably so, for it is the work of that redoubtable trio consisting of producer Ismail Merchant, director James Ivory and screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala. With films like Howards End and Remains of the Day, they have, almost alone, kept alive what in...

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