The Age of Innocence Screen 16 articles

The Age of Innocence

1993

The Age of Innocence Poster
  • In Wharton, the real action is internal, taking place within the consciousness of her protagonist, Newland Archer, a young man with every quality but the capacity to break free of stifling social norms. The Age of Innocence is fundamentally a study in frustration, a passionate love story in which the passion—the powerful mutual attraction of Newland and his scandal-clouded cousin Ellen—remains unrealizable.

  • The Age of Innocence is, obviously, gorgeous; before ever seeing it I heard anecdotes about the attention lavished on every detail. Utensils, dances, gowns: all are re-created and re-enacted lovingly. Perhaps this is the crux of the film: it plays as a re-enactment, while a great film should have the animation of life. There is something waxen and dull here—and I am not mistaking subtlety for tediousness. Scorsese simply tried to do something impossible: express an inability to express.

  • Despite its panorama of demure characters, The Age of Innocence stands as one of Scorsese’s most visually dynamic productions, with iris-like spotlighting within the frame, bursts of color inspired by Black Narcissus and Rear Window, and the aforementioned prowl of the Beaufort estate uncannily echoing Ballhaus’s legendary nightclub sequence from Goodfellas, as tuxedoed party guests nod approvingly at Newland one step ahead of the Steadicam.

  • Who better than Scorsese to depict these, the meanest streets of all? Only a native New Yorker could so artfully portray the stultifying proximity of illicit city romance. In the gossip-filled parlors of the van der Luydens or Archers, the slightest faux pas could have a disastrous effect on one’s reputation. Cross the boss, south of Houston, and the shame is the same (if not a hair bloodier). Fifth Avenue, it seems, is not so far from Mulberry Street.

  • Strangely underappreciated upon its release, a masterwork by any measure, and easily one of the greatest movies Scorsese has ever directed... The Age of Innocence is as brutal a film as anything in Scorsese’s filmography—and it is also just as kinetic. His camera is constantly in motion, insinuating itself between characters, panning, tilting, and tracking from faces to walls to plates of food to silverware to fine china.

  • The most underrated and underseen of Martin Scorsese’s major works. Like Casino, it combines a chilly, melancholy tone with a playful and imaginative style; unmotivated close-ups, rapid dissolves, and dreamy dolly moves abound. Eccentric and opulent, The Age Of Innocence is one of the director’s most visually dense works. It’s packed with flowers, table settings, calling cards, and other assorted 19th-century bric-a-brac. Paintings and folding screens create frames within the frame.

  • Depending on your point of view, this is either one of Martin Scorsese's grandest failures or one of his boldest triumphs. Certainly, it was unexpected for Scorsese to adapt Edith Wharton's novel, set among the high society of 1870s New York. Wharton's style is as reserved as the director's is visceral, and Scorsese approaches the discrepancy as a challenge: How to translate such a literary work, which derives its force from its describing unexpressed emotion, into a wholly cinematic one?

  • The Beauforts’ ball is a tour-de-force sequence, beginning with a wondrous layering of time-progressing shots; then the camera strolls through the halls and rooms of the house, discovering meeting groups, and finally soars high overhead to observe the geometric patterns made by the dancing couples. Color is used carefully, painted with a flat, slightly pressed texture, delicately recreating the texturing of the paintings Newland loves, but without walloping the eye with sheer prettiness.

  • [Raging Bull and GoodFellas] derived their power from a special tension, a contradiction between the profane, socially determined behaviour of Scorsese's anti-heroes, and the sacred themes and euphoric emotions to which their actions gave rise. The Age of Innocence profoundly alters this equation, for all the energy and rapture of the story is sublimated, and comes to suffuse bodies, events and objects in a trembling, fragile way.

  • It wasn't until the third viewing that I keyed into The Age of Innocence. Watching a now familiar succession of images, I finally found myself simultaneously inside Newland Archer's head as he waited for the word or gesture from his beloved that he believed would seal his fate forever and inside Martin Scorsese's head as he made the editing decisions that in recent months have been recounted in endless magazine articles.

  • Immanent in its every aspect is that old New World mythology that turned on the subtle dialectic between innocence and knowledge, action and memory, life and art, the present and the past, between a spontaneously Edenic America and corrupt, overcivilized Europe. . . . Casualities among the gentlefolk come as the result of terrible emotional implosions, and the dream of being somebody is as subject to sudden wipe-out as in any of Scorsese's contemporary urban minefields.

  • Inasmuch as I have spent much of my life as a movie reviewer denouncing the imbecilities of sociological criticism, I am delighted with movies in which the elective affinities ultimately transcend even the class struggle. I was moved by Mr. Scorsese's movie in much the same manner as I was moved by Wharton's book, and I can think of no higher praise to pay the director.

  • With a reverence that doesn't preclude embellishment, Scorsese and his production team have cultivated Wharton's novel with so thorough a sense of social archaeology – from ornate banquet settings to the encroachments of impressionist painting – as to have created a radiant hybrid: a chronicle of corseted desire that is both audibly literary and sumptuously visual.

  • What I find most moving (perversely maybe) aren't the agonizingly classic love scenes between Archer and the countess but the painful domestic awkwardness between him and May. How gingerly they treat each other—carefulness somehow masking genuine care. Bound by decorum, they can easily avoid intimacy for a whole lifetime. His longing for the countess comes to seem like another way to evade what's nearby.

  • I had assumed that the Visconti of The Leopard would be Scorsese’s key model; 15 minutes into the movie, I realized that Welles’s The Magnificent Ambersons was exerting an even stronger influence. But the fact remains that Welles... are all better equipped to understand Wharton’s world, by virtue of their upper-class backgrounds, than Scorsese is. Even a bourgeois type like Antonioni seems better suited to capture the faint tremors and enduring ambiguities of Wharton’s fiction.

  • The depth to which we know these characters adds a spin and a brilliance to scenes in which the visually striking combines with the subtly, intensely dramatic. Scenes of exquisite tension are played out against a background of lavish magnificence; extravagant dinners and dances take place in wonderfully -- and accurately -- overdecorated rooms.

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