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I saw "The Aviator" a couple of days ago and while I still have Howard Hughes flying through my brain I felt the need to see again another Scorsese. I have all of his films in my collection. I closed my eyes and picked one, just like that, at random. "The Age Of Innocence" This is what happens with great artists, you can always re visit them and you'll come out of the experience with something new, something valuable. Transported by the sublime voice of Joanne Woodward I took the trip again to discover that everything in this extraordinary universe that Martin Scorsese, based on Edith Wharton work, is not what it appears. Conventions out of the window, breaking every imaginable rule. Just as the characters get off their trucks, swimming against the tide of the times. Scorsese breaks cinematic rules with such artistry that we're allow to inspect, re live and enjoy a story as old as the world from a completely new perspective. Is as if Luchino Visconti had suddenly woken up with a new contemporary sight to look back with. Daniel Day Lewis is so marvelous that the pain of his predicament becomes more than visual, becomes visceral. For Michelle Pfeiffer and Winona Ryder this was the zenith of their careers. They are sensational. The casting, as usual in a Scorsese film, is superb even in the smallest roles. Glimpses of Sian Phillips, Alexis Smith and Geraldine Chaplin add to the pleasures, making this overwhelming banquet of a film one of the most rewarding film experiences I've ever had.
I actually saw this movie when it was released in 1993, and honestly it was
pretty dull then. Of course I was 22, and the workings of that late-1800's
New York society really didn't make much sense or have much
I think the film may have been ignored at its release because of the slew of other "period pieces" which were so popular (an eventually common) in the late 80's/early 90's... But watching it again 10 years later, this film is anything but common.
The true intensity is Scorcese's detached presentation of a hypocritical & hateful society which holds its members as prisoners.
Not to mention impeccable art direction & beautiful cinematography by the legendary Michael Ballhaus. The film looks as impressionistic as the paintings that line the walls of the characters' homes.
Scorsese is always acute in his casting decisions, and this is one of the films many virtues:
Lewis is perfect as a man who's struggle between his passion & his duty are constantly on the verge of devouring him (yet somehow he thrives on his torture).
Ryder is the seemingly innocent & naive girl who is completely manipulative & cunning underneath her exterior (gee, who would have thought?!) -- notice the arching scene.
In a sense, this was one of Pfeiffer's defining roles. Pfeiffer herself (in a sense) is an "outcast" who has never truly been accepted as a "serious" actress by her peers in the acting community. Watching this film again, it amazes me how this role somehow reflects her personal position in the current social structure of Hollywood, similar to her character existing in 1800's New York society.
What an amazing pic. I completely "missed it" the first time around. Great observance of "high society." Many of those codes are strangely applicable today.
Not recommended for those who like fast paced movies, or those who are looking for the "usual Scorcese." I would couple this with "Last Temptation of Christ" as Scorsese's most brave, artistic, demanding & abstract films to date.
In the 70's, the decade's greatest director Stanley Kubrick broke from his
series of groundbreaking films to make a long period piece. That movie,
"Barry Lyndon", was met with much critical acclaim, but also a litany of
derision from fans and critics alike who called it too slow, too ponderous
and too boring. Nearly 20 years later, the world's leading director of that
time, Martin Scorcese took the same steps and met with much of the same
These two movies are not for everyone. If you want to see action and fast-paced filmmaking, you will find them boring. However, if you want to see the pinnacles of the careers of the two greatest directors of the second half of the 20th century, you will find them here.
Enough has been said about the plot and the acting in "The Age of Innocence". The bottom line is that for pure cinematic luster and beauty, the 90's offers only a single movie that can match "Barry Lyndon". Don't watch the clock, watch the film, and enjoy a departure and a triumph that proves the depth and confidence of Scorcese's skills.
Lastly, don't let anyone spoil the ending for you, and don't jump to conclusions. Think about it after you've seen the movie, savour it for a while and the understanding will come to you. This movie quite simply has the finest ending of any movie I have ever seen.
"The Age of Innocence" is the 10 that rises just above Scorcese's string of 9 1/2s. See it.
In a way I am disappointed after reading the comments because I thought I
was alone in adoring this ravishing and masterful film, and I thought I
would get to be the sole voice in the wind proudly proclaiming its
Years ago, I ho-hummed my way through viewing it, and I was so unimpressed, I can't tell you today whether I saw it in a theater or rented it at home. It has been in rather heavy rotation on the movie channels for some reason of late, and I watched it again a few weeks ago.
It simply left me breathless. I must have watched it twelve times over the last few weeks, and am dying to buy the DVD if it ever comes out. Scorcese calls this his "most violent film", and after seeing it again, alone, watching intently, it struck me how completely right he was.
The comments before mine are mostly right on target...I am in awe of the filmmaking and can't say enough about the dramatic subtleties, the opulent production values and the overall magnificent way the entire project was handled. Even the normally atrocious Winona Ryder excelled in a role that was simply a tour-de-force for her...the vapid but yet not so vapid after all May Welland. A masterpiece. Please see it if you haven't already.
Don't get put off by those telling you to give a miss to this film. They belong to the school, insufferable to the true cinema lover and to those of any taste in general, who expects "something to happen" in a film and feel cheated at the end if they haven't had to scramble through an intricate plot, haven't seen the mandatory pound of spilled blood and the round of gunshots. Scorsese is at his most brilliant in this film; it is all the more exquisite as it does not rely on an overloaded plot but prefers to be constructed of lights and half lights, shades and nuances. All the more appropriate as this is exactly what Scorsese wants us to see in the world of end of XIX th century New York- a society brimming with peace and innocence in which nothing appears to ever happen but under the surface of which gossip and intrigue work relentlessly and destinies are decided over the small talk of the dinner table. Accompanied by an impecable narrative voice and an unforgettable richness of color and music it will haunt you forever. Those it sends to sleep do not deserve to be awake. Ten out of ten!
For those who wonder what is Mr. Scorsese looking for in a film like "The
Age of Innocence", (probably more suitable to a director such as James
Ivory), the man himself gives the answer: "This film deals with the same
matters that can be found in my work in the last 25 years. There is guilt,
desire, obsessed passion and the weakness to satisfy that passion".
The story takes place in New York, around 1880. Newland Archer (Daniel Day-Lewis) must choose between his current fiancee May Welland (Winona Ryder) and her cousin who has just arrived from Poland and is recently divorced, Helen Ollenska (Michelle Pfeiffer). May is the symbol of a world he's familiar with, and Helen represents the world he's dreaming of.
Living in a conservative world full of compromises, Newland is as much trapped by his social circle as the Italian-American heroes of Mean Streets and GoodFellas. However, the Mafia here is called New York aristocracy and kills with words, with a gesture or with a look of contempt and rejection, instead of using guns. Scorsese fans who expect to see psychotic characters, violence or De Niro-style performances, will be disappointed. Everything in this movie is based on the observation and recording of the social behaviour codes, the unexpressed feelings and of things which are not not said but implied. Scorsese portrayed with absolute preciseness, almost paragraph to paragraph, Edith Wharton's classic novel. However, he managed to give the film his own unique personal view, proving his gigantic talent and that he's capable of creating masterpieces, whatever the heroes, the story or the genre of the film. Winona Ryder should definitely have won the Oscar for her wonderful performance, but Lewis and Pfeiffer are marvellous as well. What's left to say? The Age of Innocence is an un-excusably underrated all time classic.
The Age of Innocence is simply the best work by director Martin Scorcese and is deservedly entitled to the numerous accolades it has received. Mr. Scorcese's style and panache is elaborate in his film adaptation of Edith Wharton's moving novel of a forbidden love and the desideration between the two. Pfeiffer gives the most heart-wrenching performance as the object of desire. Daniel Day Lewis, equally talented, is the tortured lover who must choose, a promise of marriage to Mae (Winona Ryder) or risk his stalwart reputation in society to express his love for Pfeiffer. The cinematography is beautiful and the cast phenomenal. I highly recommend this film to everyone.
I have seen "The Age of Innocence" about 15 times since 1994, and find
the argument as to whether it is boring or not to be fascinating.
Period films are not for everyone, and if you lack an appreciation for
subtlety then maybe something like "Joe Dirt" may be better suited for
you. But what lies beneath this wonderful movie is a priceless ode to
Michelle Pfeiffer plays Ellen Olenska, a proto-feminist who flees from her failing European marriage to the home of her blood relatives in 1870's New York Society. She's been away for most of her life and the States are foreign to her, but she quickly realizes that she is viewed as threat, a black sheep ---and Society reacts to her as it would to a dirty black spot on a carpet or on one of their tuxedo shirts. "Harmony could be shattered by a whisper", as well narrated by Joanne Woodward.
Daniel Day-Lewis plays Newland Archer, an up-and-rising patriarch who sees something in her that no one else in his rich circle could offer him: an independent viewpoint to life. As a lawyer and a powerful member of his family, he bravely tries to protect Ellen from basically everyone, esp. members of their own family. Despite all of her difficulties, Countess Olenska refuses to part from her individuality: she smokes in front of Newland, does not hide from men in social situations, and criticizes her surroundings. Archer doesn't necessarily fall in love with her as a person but with what she represents: Romanticism and escape.
There is a lot to love about this film, which is more like a piece of art than a movie. Every scene and every bit of dialogue denotes elegance and brutality simultaneously. All of the leading and supporting characters are so believable and well formed that they trump anything Hollywood has been throwing at us in recent months. And the setting for this film is very unconventional, at least for the 90's. Through excellent film-making, I can see why Society felt the need to operate in such a ruthless fashion, in order to protect itself from Ellen and what she represented to Newland, its newly crowned prince.
Over the past few months, I have also grown an appreciation for Winona Ryder's performance as May. She is a shrewd politician, who uses her "bright blindness" as a megaphone for Society's rules of conduct, a weapon of manipulation against her destined husband Newland, and as a way to continue plotting without easily being detected.
I wonder how many more times I will watch "The Age of Innocence" before I risk being exposed to Hollywood's 21st century conformity, such as "Independence Day" or "Wild, Wild West". All I know is that Ellen Olenska (as one of my favorite cinematic heroines) serves to validate my own sense of individuality, and neither she nor the astonishing beauty of this Scorcese creation, will ever be boring. 10 out of 10 stars.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The deliberate slowness of the camera as it moves throughout scenes;
the way characters react to one another with little more than glances
and smiles and polite gestures who imply much more than what they say;
the theme of a rigid society and the woman who unknowingly disrupts it
with her "scandalous" conduct; the story of a repressed love affair:
this is not the stuff that makes Martin Scorcese films as he's more
known as a filmmaker of aggressive, extremely violent films depicting
mainly Italian-Americans in a gritty New York City. However, while the
story is upper-crust WASP, the visual imprints are his, and the
violence is completely internal, emotional, equally if not more
Contemplative, but no less involving, is the core of this movie's visual attitude. With so much subtext just simmering underneath the events told in THE AGE OF INNOCENCE, any other approach would have reduced the impact that its denouement reveals. Scorcese uses a tremendous amount of visual tricks to emphasize what or whom we should look at: spotlighting Pfeiffer and Day-Lewis as they enjoy a quiet conversation during the intermission in a play; overlapping series of fleeting images from snippets of correspondence between characters; slowing the action down for about five seconds in a key scene (when Pfeiffer gets up from her seat, crosses a room full of guests to go talk to Day-Lewis as Woodward narrates "It was not the custom for a lady to get up ... and talk to another man."). His technique forces us to really watch the story, to look for details, overt and covert, since like the opening montage of roses in bloom at the beginning of the credits, this is a movie of deep contemplation -- not because of the lush images, but because of the subtle game of tradition which is being played behind the curtains, just out of the camera's view. Nothing is what it seems, and in the exceptional case of Winona Ryder's incredibly sly portrayal of May Welland, that becomes true: she knows much more than her character reveals, and when she does so, it's only with a loving glance. She is aware of her husband's attraction to Ellen Olenska, and even casually feeds him into it, only to chain him to her at the end when all is revealed and nothing can be done. And this is what makes the movie so ultimately tragic and emotionally jarring: that true love is consciously allowed to be crushed in lieu of family tradition, which is the overwhelming hypocrisy of the people inhabiting Edith Wharton's timeless novel.
The greatest movie adaptations are usually made from novels of the second or third rank, the adaptations of the greatest novels-The Brothers Karamazov, War and Peace, Ullysses, are not very good, while Dodsworth,and The Magnificent Ambersons are ranked among the classics. This is yet another example.Scorsese surpasses his material to make a beautiful, bravura nmasterpiece. This is an expressionist film, in which we enter the soul of Newland Archer, all too proper gentleman and would bre free spirit, as he is torn between the allure of seeming non-conformity-the Countess Olenska, and the demand s of tradition and duty-May Welland.People who think its an atypical Scorsese film have never-and i repeat , NEVER paid careful attention to his films, or have only wateched them for the violence and the f-words.Scorsese has always been a tormented moralist, obsessed with loyalty, honor and tradition. This anmazingly rich, often witty film, grows on you with each repeat viewing
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