Director: James Ivory

Country: United Kingdom

Year: 2022

Duration: 75 min

Languages: English / no subtitles

Category: , , ,

In 1960, James Ivory visited Afghanistan to make a documentary he vaguely conceived as a pendant to a film on New Delhi he’d shot just before. While the latter would eventually be finished (The Delhi Way, 1964), his Afghanistan material remained untouched – until now, when Ivory used it as the backbone for A Cooler Climate (2022). More of an essay on history, memory and the vanities of civilisation-building than an exercise in autobiographical musings, it is perfectly in line with some of his greatest works, ranging from Savages (1972) and Heat and Dust (1983) to Jefferson in Paris (1995). Then again, it is marvellous how he develops a perspective on his own life through the prism of Bābur, founder of the Mughal Empire, and his autobiography, Bāburnāma, which Ivory considers one of the earliest texts on gay desire. The connection he makes at the end with en passant nods to Marcel Proust and Edward Morgan Forster is stunning: Bābur conquered the world but died emotionally unfulfilled – whereas Ivory and his lifelong companion, Ismail Merchant, had taken world cinema by storm and enjoyed a life of gay passions. And maybe that is all one needs to know – everything else is in his films, including Autobiography of a Princess (1975) the blueprint for A Cooler Climate.

Olaf Möller