An Affair To Forget
Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman was on in cinemas in the UK and US in November and is now on Netflix internationally. So Tripwire set its editor-in-chief Joel Meadows and senior editor Andrew Colman the mammoth task of watching and reviewing all of his films. Next up is 1993’s period drama The Age Of Innocence reviewed by Joel Meadows…
The Age Of Innocence
Director: Martin Scorsese
Stars: Daniel Day-Lewis, Michelle Pfeiffer, Winona Ryder, Richard E Grant
Based on the novel by Edith Wharton, The Age Of Innocence was a rather rum choice for Scorsese when he made it back in 1993, but it was clearly a labour of love for the director, who wanted to make a film so atypical of his canon that one could say that it overcompensated in its gentility. Set in 19th century middle class New York, the story follows the tribulations of a woman recently estranged, Ellen Olenska (Pfeiffer), who falls for the rather starchy and introverted lawyer Newland Archer (Day-Lewis).
The film is a very sumptuous period drama which looks stunning, but the mise en scene does entrap the characters, maintaining their inflexibility. The affair between the pair of them remains earnestly unrequited apart from a brief, fully clothed encounter in a carriage ride at one point, but nothing is resolved, with Archer continuing his marriage to wife May. Even at the film’s conclusion when he is free of any family obligations, he still chooses not to revisit what could have been, and so the audience is robbed of closure.
As you’d expect, Day-Lewis’s performance is authentically calibrated, and Pfeiffer proves to be a very strong female lead. The rest of the cast including Ryder as Archer’s put-upon wife May and Richard E Grant as well-heeled man about town Larry Lefferts all produce excellent turns. Scorsese, collaborating as usual with director of photography Michael Ballhaus and production designer Dante Ferretti, succeeded admirably in delineating late 19th century New York with the expectedly meticulous attention to detail. Screenwriter Cocks apparently gave Scorsese the book back in 1980 and proclaimed that this would be the romantic piece that he should film. Interestingly, this film is co-written by Scorsese, which is unusual as most of his films see him shooting other people’s screenplays.
At the end of the day however, the story resolutely lacks drama and its conclusion feels flat and disappointing rather than enigmatic or moving. Scorsese as a director thrives on pace and immersion, and his best films showcase his dynamism and kinetic ability – which does make one wonder why he opted to go ahead with a film that lacked any obvious dramatic core. So what we are left with is a beautiful but empty movie with decent performances which fails to engage with the viewer – and although it does have the occasional Scorsese motif, it is a film that could’ve been made by a host of other directors, many of whom would’ve ended up with a similar finished product.
Here’s the film’s trailer
Here’s the other Month Of Marty reviews so far as well