We need more directors willing to take risks with films like Get Out.
The texture of Henry James' prose style is one of the most easily recognized in modern literature, but very much an acquired taste. I remember the shock of my first exposure to it, years ago as a college freshman. I found it so opaque, so self-contemplative and so subtle that it was almost maddening: Nothing ever happened! But I plowed on ahead, through The Ambassadors and Wings of the Dove and The Golden Bowl, and finally, some years later, reading Portrait of a Lady, I think I finally grew into James.
He is a novelist of passions buried by manners, of fearful characters who use the rituals of proper society as a substitute for self-confidence, of people who find themselves in positions where they cannot say what they mean and, as a result, go mad or grow ill. Occasionally, a character of high spirits and unrehearsed goodwill flutters through a James novel, but she (for it is almost always a she) is usually doomed. The people who live forever in James hardly ever seem to live at all.
So that is why nothing ever seems to "happen." Motives are hidden, not revealed. Characters are afraid of themselves and of others. They live within social walls that prohibit uninhibited expression. They communicate by infinitely subtle and textured speech, in which meanings are implied more often than stated. What is really happening in a James novel moves from the page to the reader almost by osmosis; at the end of a chapter we have absorbed the meaning without James ever having had to be so vulgar as to state it.
James Ivory's new film "The Europeans" is based on one of James' earlier and less complex novels, but the James style is still too much for it, perhaps because Ivory and his collaborators are so determined to make a film reproducing the real atmosphere of the Master.