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review

Anthony Hopkins stars in the 1992 drama Howards End, which gets re-released this year.

It wasn't too long ago that the phrase "Merchant Ivory film" carried an intimidating weight in the film industry.

Not because the movies themselves were of a forceful or brutish nature (quite the opposite) but because the producing-directing team of Ismail Merchant and James Ivory were ridiculously skilled at creating Academy Award powerhouses: mannered period pieces based on the works of Henry James and E.M. Forster which so enraptured audiences and critics alike that trying to compete with them was a fool's errand.

But there hasn't been a true Merchant-Ivory production since 2005's The White Countess, due to Merchant's death, at age 68, that year. Which is all the more reason to celebrate the decision to re-release the pair's masterpiece, Howards End, this week – partly to celebrate the film's 25th anniversary and partly to show off a mostly stunning "4K restoration."

For those already familiar with the Anthony Hopkins-starring drama, it's a chance to revisit one of the actor's finest performances. For those who only know the term "Merchant Ivory film" as some vague, half-forgotten genre, it's a can't-miss opportunity to experience some of the finest filmmaking of the 20th century.