Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

The Age of Innocence, 1993

I saw THE AGE OF INNOCENCE back in 1993 but had rather forgotten it and had certainly forgot how opulent and lush and sumptuous it looks - it certainly looks like Scorsese's hommage to Visconti - that early scene of Daniel Day Lewis arriving at the grand soiree as the camera pans and glides around certainly suggests Burt Lancaster at the ball in THE LEOPARD, while other scenes suggest SENSO or Visconti's last film L'INNOCENTE in 1976 - this Scorsese film is certainly its equal in showing us the grand surroundings and soirees of the period, and those costumes ...

Society scion Newland Archer is engaged to May Welland, but his well-ordered life is upset when he meets May's unconventional cousin, the Countess Olenska. At first, Newland becomes a defender of the Countess, whose separation from her abusive husband makes her a social outcast in the restrictive high society of late-19th Century New York, but he finds in her a companion spirit and they fall in love.

It is of course Edith Wharton's classic novel (published in 1920) which has become a labour of love for Martin Scorsese in his first period picture, and this one certainly delivers in spades, as one of the most marvellous costume dramas ever - up there with Kubrick's BARRY LYNDON and those Visconti films (and it also suggests Ivory's THE EUROPEANS with that other visiting Countess from Europe, and then theres Jeremy Irons in SWANN IN LOVE) with a superb cast, and brilliant production work, edited by Scorsese regular Thelma Schoonmaker, with an Elmer Bernstein score and the voice-over narration is by Joanne Woodward! 
Daniel Day-Lewis commands the screen as usual as Newland Archer, that prisoner of the conventions and social rules of his social class; with Michelle Pfeiffer as the Countess Olenska, and Winona Ryder as May Welland, Newland's wife, seemingly innocent and naive but really manipulative and cunning, as she thwarts Newland's plans. The supporting cast includes Sian Phillips as his mother, Alexis Smith, Richard E Grant, Geraldine Chaplin, Jonathan Pryce, Alec McEwan, scene-stealing Miriam Margolyes and an uncredited Claire Bloom, whom I unaccountably missed - I shall have to watch it again next time it is on. 
It may seem too long and too slow with nothing much happening for some, but its a film to savour and relish and lose oneself in, and then that perfect final scene, with the older Newland and his adult son, will make it all worthwhile, with lots of marvellous moments along the way. 
Of course New York in the late 19th Century must have been a building site with all those buildings going up, and also a melting pot with all those new arrivals, but we don't see any of that in this rarified world. Scorsese's film is also a worthy companion to all those Henry James and E.M. Forster adaptations. I shall probably now have to read the book and treat myself to the film on Blu-Ray ... Working my way through Scorsese's films it is a super re-discovery, like THE AVIATOR. I will have to see Day Lewis's amazing turn in GANGS OF NEW YORK again too.

1 comment:

  1. I really need to see this again. Maybe I will include it in my 22 Days of Oscar season! Oh, and I agree with all you say once more :)