Today I was walking down Maplewood Avenue on a sunny day, passing our little movie theater, and was pleased to see the poster for “The City of Your Final Destination.” Several years ago, I reviewed the novel by Peter Cameron for the Los Angeles Times, which I thought quite wonderful, especially the droll dialogue, and its sense of drawing room humor set against the atmospherics of a crumbling Urguayan compound. (My own motivation for reviewing the book was two-fold: my family here had recently reconnected with lost relatives in Uruguay and I had become fascinated with the place, also, have always like Cameron’s work) In the review I had even conjectured that it would make a fine Merchant-Ivory film–one could picture the Chekovian characters storming about the grassy lawns:
“It takes a certain slight of hand to write a novel that is so infused with place . . . What’s sly about this novel is that the bigger dramas are kept offstage . . . Cameron has crafted a fascinating domestic drama . . . succeeds as a comedy of manners that pokes fun at literary careerism and turns entertainingly on people who are not happy, and would not admit it if they were. I kept envisioning this as a cross between a West End Edwardian play . . . and a Merchant-Ivory production …”
Lo and behold, it’s the first film, other than the White Countess, that James Ivory has made since the death of Ismael Merchant a few years ago.
The film is about a hapless graduate student, Omar Razaghi, who is egged on by his more ambitious girlfriend to head down to Uruguay to seek out the surviving family of a novelist, whom he is writing about for his dissertation. Instead he is soon embroiled in long simmering feuds and dramas and his own life takes a surprising turn. There was, in a way, very little in atmospherics as I had originally assumed–instead, however–the novel turns on a cast of characters simmering in lives that are not quite right. It has a graceful, light touch and I’m eager to see what Ivory has done in the film version.