THE AGE OF INNOCENCE (1993)

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The Age of Innocence 'The Criterion Collection' has recently re-released a re-mastered edition of the 1993 Martin Scorsese costume drama, 'The Age of Innocence'. Its running time is 139 minutes long and it stars Daniel Day-Lewis, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Winona Ryder. Plus as a special bonus, it also contains four interviews and a behind the scenes documentary. Please enjoy.


The Age of Innocence: The Book and The Film


THE STORY:
When my fiancée first introduced us, Countess Olenska (Michelle Pfeiffer), I immediately felt sorry for you because of all the numerous problems you were then facing. After all, it must have been extremely difficult to cope with a constantly cheating husband, without mentioning the amount of pressure you must have been under moving to a new city and finding a new home.

So, under advisement, I took it upon myself to aide you to the best of my ability, doing so by giving you my advice, my companionship, as well as my expert legal counsel. But as time ticked on things started to change between us, didn’t it Countess? It changed in a way that neither of us truly wanted to admit. 

Why was that though? Was I growing despondent with my fiancée because her family kept on postponing our wedding arrangements?  Or did I just see something in you that I admired and wanted for myself? That being the freedom to break free from societies frigid shackles!

Either way, we’re here now, just the two of us, me and you, and I’m sure we’re both waiting for the other one to make the next move. A move, I hasten to add, which begins when you hold up a piece of paper and say to me, ‘Newland Archer (Daniel Day-Lewis), I have recently received a letter from your fiancée, my cousin, May Welland (Winona Ryder), informing me that you're both going to get married’. As a wedding bell drops like a bomb, the passage of time starts singing a new song, the promise of children gives everyone a shove, and at the end of the day, what’s the real price of true-true love?




THE REVIEW:
Before we begin, I would just like to say that I’ve never been a big fan of costumed melodramas. Quite often I find them to be fairly pompous productions, tonally at least, and sometimes the stories they try to tell can be long winded and overly melodramatic, bordering on the tedious. That said, however, I’m happy to say that ‘The Age of Innocence’ isn’t such a picture. If anything, it’s the complete opposite, as it’s a very engrossing film set in a period of American history which isn’t usually showcased on the silver screen.

The Age of InnocenceWell, let’s face it; when was the last time you saw an American costumed drama set during the latter half of the 19th Century? Saying so while discounting the other Scorsese and Daniel Day-Lewis collaboration, ‘The Gangs of New York’! It’s been quite a while, hasn’t it? And for that fact alone it’s well worth watching.  

Another reason why you should pick it up is because it remind's me of my old science teacher, Mister Radcliffe. Yes. That’s correct. I’m actually comparing this movie to a man who once gave me detention for setting fire to water. You see, old Radcliffe, may God bless him, was a very pleasant teacher who always made his lessons fun, entertaining, and interesting to be a part of. Which couldn’t have been very easy for him, considering that most of us were more interested in smoking the chemicals in his lab than reading and writing about them! Even so, somehow he still found a way of making his classes fun to follow, which is precisely what Martin Scorsese was able to do with this film. 

Well, in no uncertain terms, there were a number of different tasks he had to perform in order to entice us into this picture. Firstly, he had to present each individual character so we could partly understand who they are, what they do, and why we should care for them. Then he had to introduce the world these people inhabit, doing so in such a way that we are able to learn their rituals, understand their hierarchy, as well as familiarise ourselves with their customs and traditions. And last, but not least, there’s the actual story he wanted to tell. Or in other words, the classic love-triangle he wanted to tell, the one where three closely connected people love each other (just not in the way they each would have liked). 

Yes. It’s one of those films, movie mates. It’s one of those films where X loves Y but not as much as they love Z. Not that this is a bad thing, mind you, because unlike many other love-triangles, this version makes a lot more sense when you take into account the period in which it was set, that being the late 19th Century. I also have to congratulate everyone who worked behind the scenes. Be it the costume designers, the set decorators, or the sound engineers, every single person associated with this flick did a bang up job on it and it showed on the screen.


The Age of Innocence


Along similar lines I can say exactly the same thing about those people in front of the camera, supporting or otherwise. After all, it goes without saying that Daniel, Winona, and Michelle are each highly respected actors, and they managed to make us care about their characters without judging them in the process. Daniel does this in a fairly aloof yet charming manner, similar to a pre-Horror Vincent Price; whereas Winona’s performance was much more understated, yet she was still adorably cute nonetheless; and as for Michelle, well, she's got the hardest job of them all, because she has to make you like her, hate her, feel sorry for her, and understand where she’s coming from, which she obviously does in a sultry yet spirited fashion. A notable mention also goes out to Miriam Margolyes, who plays Miss Mingott, as she acts as the patriarchal figure that drives this story along by saying what is right and what is wrong. Having said that, though, in this instance no one is to blame! Not physically, anyhow. If anything, society is to blame, a society which is caught up in so much detail that people are lost to their own emotions.

The Age of Innocence
Anyway, that’s enough of that for the time being. So, for now, let us sit back, relax, and check out the following filmic-facts. (1) This production was first screened at the Venice Film Festival on the exact same day the president of Venezuela, Carlos Perez, was forced to flee his country. It was on the 31st of August, 1993. (2) Loosely translated, this project was entitled 'The Time of Jurisdiction' in Slovenia; 'The Time of Virginity' in Sweden; and in Norway it was called, 'The Time of the Indignation'. (3) This film was mostly based on a serialized novel written by Edith Wharton in 1920. A year later it went on to win a Pulitzer Prize for the best-fictionalized book, and since then has been regarded as one of the best sources of information about the social transitions America had to go through during this period of history. (4) Even though a large portion of this picture was shot at the Kaufman Astoria Studios, Queens, New York, other parts of it was shot on location in the city itself as well as numerous places situated in and around Philadelphia and Paris. In New York you might be able to notice Kinderhook, Manhattan, Gramercy Park, Long Island, Old Westbury Gardens, Rhode Island, Hoboken, Albany, Westchester Village, Enid A Haupt's Conservatory, Russell Sage College, the Rice Building, and Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity House, with the last three located in Troy, plus Remsen Street and Prospect Park, each located in Brooklyn. While in Philadelphia there's the Academy of Music; and in Paris, there's the Rue de Furstenberg, the Quai d'Orléans, and the Jardin des Tuileries. (5) This was the last time Alexis Smith would appear in a full-length feature film. She was a Canadian born actress who died of brain cancer on the exact same year this flick was released, 1993, and she's best known for starring in such 1940s movies as 'The Doughgirls', 'Hollywood Canteen', as well as the Jack Benny classic, 'The Horn Blows at Midnight'.  (6) The unnamed narrator of this piece was none other than Paul Newman's wife, Joanne Woodward. Marty worked with Paul on the 1986 sports drama, 'The Color of Money', and remembered that she had a very distinctive voice. (7) Martin Scorsese dedicated this drama to his father, Luciano Charles Scorsese, who died just before it was completed. (8) After this film fanned a fin, Daniel Day-Lewis starred in the biopic, 'In the Name of the Father'; Michelle Pfeiffer starred in an episode of 'The Simpsons'; and Winona Ryder starred in the rom-com, 'Reality Bites'.


The Age of Innocence


In closing, I would just like to address one last point constantly raised by a lot of people who have watched ‘The Age of Innocence’: How come it doesn't have a love scene? Well, the way I see it, the main reason for this is because there isn't one needed! Well, it's not like a man and a woman can only express their mutual admiration for each other via the act of lovemaking itself! There are other ways too. Such as the time someone can spend with you, the way a person is greeted or embraced, and, in this instance, there's also the touch of a shoulder, the glint of an eye, as well as the way a knowing stare says too much and yet too little. Either way, love is love, passion is passion, drama is drama, and I don't think that including a love scene would have added anything to the overall story.   

THE RATING: A

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