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Phillip Kaufman's loving examination of Anais Nin's relationship with
and June Miller is an enthralling journey. In the film Anais is inspired
Henry and June to descend into a world of debauchery that fuels her erotic
writing. We the audience see Henry and June through the eyes of Anais,
which may mean it's not exactly as they really were, but rather a
romanticised version of them. This is NOT a biopic of Henry Miller, which
is the foolish mistake that some reviewers seemed to make on the films
The script tends to meander a bit, lacking any real plot. Each scene lives for itself, some more successfully than others. But in the torrid climax when Anais' wild ways have finally caught up with her, it all comes together nicely to leave a feeling of completion.
The cast is first rate. Maria de Medeiros, despite not having top billing, get's the bulk of the screen time as Anais. She has a captivating look, and embodies a sense of innocence throughout, despite displaying the most promiscuous nature. If at times she overdoes the melodrama, she should be commended for managing to purr out some rather flowery dialogue without sounding silly. Many lesser actresses would have faltered.
In what is undoubtably the highlight of his film career, Fred Ward instils Henry with some old styled charisma and gusto. While he gives us a throughly entertaining Henry, I still however have trouble seeing this character as a writer of erotic fiction. He seems too much like a man's man. The original casting choice of Alec Baldwin would make more sense in this case, but I doubt in the end he would have been as entertaining in the role as Ward.
Uma Thurman, as June, gives a memorable performance. It's the most showy character in the film, and Thurman gets the chance for plenty of legitimate scenery chewing. She uses the full scale of emotions and performs a transformation of the character from menacing seductress to pitiful emotional wreck. Despite the surprising comments of one of the other posters here, it really is one of the best performances of her young and promising career.
In support, Richard E. Grant is awkward (probably purposely) as Hugo, Anais' well-hung and faithful husband. Jean-Philippe Écoffey is adequate as Anais' cousin and brief lover. Kevin Spacey is amusing in what now looks like a cameo, but then was quite an important role for him.
Philippe Rousselot's cinematography is beautifully done. He creates an almost surreal feeling of Paris in the 1930's. The music is also well placed and adds to this mood. Kaufman and Rousselot make the numerous sex-scenes things of beauty rather than titillating, they get creative with them. In fact, the film is surprisingly unarousing considering the amount of sex occurring in it. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing I guess you can decide for yourself. Why on earth it got an NC-17 rating I don't know. I doubt it would if released today.
Not everyone will like this film. It is 'arty farty' so to speak. It's maybe even a little pretentious. But I find it to be a fascinating and just plain absorbing trip. I have managed to find the time to watch it quite a few times, and it seems to improve with age. I recommend it to any thinking filmgoers.
this film is just flat out exotic in every sense. the period details and
characterizations are perfect and the controversial erotic material well
integrated into plot and pacing of the film.
the basic plot involves Maria DeMedeiros' character's affair with famous author Henry Miller (Fred Ward) and her attraction to his wife June (a smoldering performance by Uma Thurman.)
all of the actors and actresses involved do splendid work but it is the beautiful Uma Thurman who steals this film. she's only in the film about 25 minutes but those scenes radiate an eroticism that has been unmatched by any film since. she is simply gorgeous in this role and any person doubting her acting ability due to her poor script choices recently should check out her performance in this film.
the much talked-about erotic elements and explicit sex scenes that caused the MPAA to create the now useless NC-17 rating, are actually well integrated into the film and actually work to create better understandings of the 3 principle characters through their sexual behaviors and practices. the film isn't all sex like some people think, but when the erotic elements rear their head, the intensity and focus of these scenes throw people off kilter.
overall this is a fantastic film that drags just a little bit near the beginning and end, but is perfectly acted and stunningly filmed.
a great date film or for people who love truly great cinema.
If you're drawn to this film as a Henry Miller fan and expecting the
of Tropic of Cancer, you'll be let down. This film is a character-driven
drama and therefore it is not intended to reproduce Miller's vision.
Instead, the film focuses on (then) newly revealed excerpts from Anais
diary. Four characters: Miller, Anais, June (Miller's wife), and Hugo
(Anais' husband) complete the love square within which fairly complex
relationships play out.
The film is primarily concerned with Anais' sexual awakening through her relationship with Miller and his wife. And I have to say, de Medeiros exceeds all expectations in this role. Not only does she look remarkably like the young Anais, but she also seems to radiate the writer's deep erotic mystique. If nothing else, watch this film just for this performance-- besides, she's absolutely gorgeous. Thurman's performance is also quite good, her NYC accent believable and her dirty-girl role works well in contrast to Anais' bourgeois exterior. Ward as Miller took some getting used to, but Grant's character seemed wooden and artificial.
Literary and historical references are sparsely sprinkled throughout the film, and although Miller has a few monologues in which he attempts to express the point of his writing, Miller fans will find nothing more than a superficial synopsis. But again, this can't be counted against the film since its focus is Anais. As far as the eroticism of the new "Journals" goes, the film succeeds fairly well- but the images convey more than the dialog.
This brings me to my final point: the NC-17 rating. Historically, this film was the first with that rating-- the MPAA created the rating specifically for this film since they deemed it to risqué for an R. By today's standards, this film is an R. If you're looking for softcore, watch "Emmanuelle" or something.
This richly textured period piece deals with the subject of sexual obsession
and attitudes, which I found in many ways to be reminiscent to Bernardo
Bertoluccis Last Tango in Paris. It's an insightful examination of Anais Nin
( Maria de Mederios) diaries explaining her relationship with author Henry
Miller ( Fred Ward in a terrific portrayal) and Millers wife June ( a
luminous Uma Thurman in her pre Pulp Fiction fame). It's the central
performances of the three leads which holds the film together. Beautiful
cinematography and lavish production design, director Philip Kaufman has
perfectly captured the atmosphere of 1930's Europe. The script sometimes
falls into predictability but is saved by Kaufmans inventive direction and
the wonderful acting.
Kevin Spacey also shines in one of his early film roles.
Director Phillip Kaufman stirred up quite a bit of controversy when this film was first being released, most likely because of the intensity of the love scenes, but after watching the DVD I am now thinking that this film could have maybe slipped by with an R rating. The film faired poorly at the box-office, but seemed to have received generally positive reviews. The best element of this film is the atmosphere, which truly resembles the time period in which the film takes place. The story of the romance between the two writers is interesting on its own, but the great acting gives it a boost. Overall, a highly worthwhile film that will come as a pleasant surprise. The 6.3 rating is too low. I would say it deserves at the very least a 7. Ill give it an 8.
Anaïs Nin is hailed by many critics as one of the finest examples of
writers of female erotica. She was one of the first women to really
explore the realm of erotic writing, and certainly the first prominent
woman in modern Europe to write erotica. Henry and June is based upon
her life in Paris around 1931, and her relationship with Henry and June
Miller. This relationship strongly influenced her as both a woman and
Phillip Kaufman (Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), Quills, Raiders of the Lost Ark) does a superb job of directing his own screenplay and presents a story that flows smoothly as it presents a picture of bohemian life in Paris that consumed the banker's wife.
I am not sure they could have found someone better than Fred Ward (Remo Williams) to play Henry Miller (Tropic of Cancer, Tropic of Capricorn, Black Spring). He just seemed to fit right in with the character.
Uma Thurman (Kill Bill, Pulp Fiction) was fantastic as his wife, June, the bi-sexual who fell in love with Nin. After realizing that she lost Nin to her husband, she left him. What was interesting was that Nin immediately left Miller to return to her husband. You really need a scorecard to figure out who is married to and sleeping with whom.
Nin was played by Portuguese actress Maria de Medeiros (Fabienne in Pulp Fiction). She was sensational as the woman who fell into the bohemian life and lifestyle.
There were brief appearances by Kevin Spacey as a lawyer who wanted to be a writer, and the person who introduced Nin to Miller.
The slice of life in Bohemian Paris in 1931 has to be seen to be believed. It was an exciting time and certainly an exciting place. To see a piece f some of the greatest writers in American erotica, even fictionalized, was also great.
Henry and June holds the distinction of being the first film to receive an NC-17 rating.
I really enjoyed seeing Henry and June again on the satellite 15
years after its release. The relationship between June and Anaïs - and
between both of them and Henry is dark, sensual, and at times, graphic.
This is a very "steamy" movie for its time. From time to time
characters seem to just disappear - especially Henry - leaving Anaïs
and Henry to explore their feeling and passions.
Kevin Spacey has a very small role here- only a hint of what he will become.
The classical music used for the opening scene is by Stravinsky - Le Sacre du Printemps - it's perfect for the mood. The musical score has several "smoky" and sultry French songs that make you want to have been in Paris back in the 20's. There are a few jazz tracks and scenes in jazz nightspots.
The filming captures the "look" and "feel" of Paris in the 20's - with a hint of a war to come. The antique cars barely fit between the buildings - just as today!
If you have not seen Henry and June - find it and watch it - after the children are in bed.
In 1931 Paris, French authoress Anaïs Nin, doing a study on D.H. Lawrence, finds herself intrigued by different variations of sexuality; she and her husband Hugo Guiler are drawn into friendship with Americans Henry Miller and his volatile bisexual wife, June. Miller, the unpublished New York writer just on the verge of a breakthrough with "Tropic of Cancer", sees Anaïs as a sexy child and has a half-hearted affair with her, but June Miller's feelings seem to go much deeper. Maria de Medeiros as Nin has a marvelous face and graceful manner that nearly manage to keep this handsome but unenlightening sexual odyssey together. Director Philip Kaufman hopes to be as uninhibited as his characters but, despite an NC-17 rating, his sexual sequences feel truncated (and when nudity is trotted out--as in the whorehouse sequence--it fails to stand in for true eroticism). Fred Ward, always worth a look, seems held back as Miller, restrained, and he's not helped by a bald plate which at times looks unconvincing; Uma Thurman has a smaller role as June, and Kaufman allows her to pose and smolder a bit too much, but she's looser on the screen and brings the narrative some much-needed danger. The picture has a lot of ambiance and is briskly paced and fancifully told, but it just doesn't succeed at being a risk-taking exploration of human sexuality simply because Kaufman takes so few risks. ** from ****
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
According to Woody, 90% of success is showing up. If you are a writer, that is a non- trivial commitment. It means that you need to leave your cocoon and take your unprotected self into risky territory. It is the only way to guide the reader. The less risk you take, the less value in general to all parties. Then it is a merely a matter of direction. A common direction is sex, and a common linkage is the so-called passion for life conflated with rich writing.
That's familiar enough. I have a database of literally (double literally!) hundreds of films on this notion. I am astonished at how few of them actually take the kinds of risks they attempt to portray, how few actually show passion -- and quite apart from that, how seldom we encounter a real connection between the emotion risks of sex and those of writing. The gimmick here is supposed to be two warring books, each about the same woman but from entirely different perspectives. Since we cannot experience the books themselves, we are exposed to the perspectives. The trick is engage us in the same way that they are engaged -- to invite an obsession with these three as they obsess with each other.
The problem is that no one involved in this project has sufficient passion, much less the ability to transport it into our souls. Uma tries to look steamy and deep, but is still just a dumb flower child. Ward is horribly miscast and spends all his energy on a faux New York accent and demeanor. In all fairness to him, the real Miller appears to have been similarly occupied.
I was really impressed with Maria de Medeiros' eyes, which had the practiced effect of constant discovery. She really looks the part, but gets lost in Kaufman's apparent confusion about what he wants to do. He already had successfully merged sexual competition and the similar competitions of large politics in "Lightness of Being." But I credit that success in large part to the fearlessness of all three actors. Here we have the same three roles more or less, and his meek guidance is not enough to make up for their meeknesses.
If you want a film based on a real story that is more accurately connected between sex and writing, check out "Nora" and "Beat." Both are flawed but each has passion overlain on the real case. Another real case with a film that actually works is "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" though the sex there is abstract.
Two sex/writing films that really work for me are "The End of the Affair" (Julianne Moore version) and "Pillow Book." Risk there. Dangerous writing, dangerous watching.
Ted's Evaluation -- 2 of 4: Has some interesting elements
What, I wonder, is the superlative of pretentious. Yes, I know that
it's 'most pretentious,' but that doesn't seem dramatic enough to
describe this very long, long journey into total self-congratulatory
eroticism. The film is based on portions of Anais Nin's diaries -- she
wrote something like 9,000 pages, and you don't need to read more than
a tenth of those to know that you are in the hands of one of the most
self absorbed women who ever walked the planet. For one who is supposed
to have been all about Art, she really seems to have been all about
Anais. Nothing else much mattered. And this film, which is supposed to
focus on her relationship with Henry and June Miller, really is all
about her. The more libidinous she becomes the more 'innocent' she
claims to be.
Anyway, about the movie: Maria de Medeiros has an amazing, triangular face with huge eyes. Her unique looks and tiny perfect body make us pay attention. I found Fred Ward's Henry Miller a bit too thick to be convincing. Somehow, from what I've read of Miller, I think he would have been a lot more intuitive and sensitive to the female psyche (we know he knew a lot about the female physique). Uma Thurman was wonderful as June. Really a stellar, moving performance. I wanted to see more of June because I was left not quite understanding how she worked. I guess Henry and Anais didn't either.
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