The Age of Innocence (1993) Directed by Martin Scorsese & Remains of The Day (1993) Directed by James Ivory
When I was a teenager I believed that love conquers all social settings
and rules. Back then watching The Age of Innocence was like
witnessing idiots wasting their lives away –– angering and frustrating.
Now I've become a fan of the endless reserve. Both The Age of
Innocence and Remains of The Day are two-hour defenses for
the sexiness of reserve. Anthony Hopkins (in Remains...)
and Daniel Day-Lewis (in The Age...) play their very different
approaches to inexpressible love with excellence. Incidentally,
both movies portray women as weaker and more prone to protest
against social order.
Still, there is something completely distancing and unattached in
both movies, but especially in The Age of Innocence.
The camera lingers on plates of exquisite upper-class food arrangements
one too many times; often it feels that the director doesn't trust
Edith Warton's dry cynicism to carry the movie and he compensates
with too many awe-inspiring shots of velvety interiors.
And by now it should be official: Winona Ryder is simply boring as
an actor and Michelle Pfeiffer is not much better than that.
What was going on in the 1990s casting in Hollywood?
1993 must have been a big year for period drama. Arguably the kings of
the period drama genre in modern times were director
Ivory and his producer partner Ismail Merchant.
Just a little perusal through their work gives you a rough idea
of the kind of films they made (i.e.Howards End, Maurice, A Room With
A View etc). What you normally get in an Ivory/Merchant film is lots of stiff
upper lip and wonderful costumes. This story of unfulfilled desire
that the mansion Butler Stevens (played by an excellent Anthony
Hopkins)feels for the mansion Houskeeper (Emma Thompson)
is a slight film where etiquette often trumps emotion.
Altman's Gosford Park is a more entertaining film based on a similar
Scorsese comes really unstuck on his adaptation of Edith
Wharton's Age Of Innocence. Not only is Scorsese more interested
in the cutlery, flowers, artwork, clothing and general period detail
that populate the lives of these characters, he leaves us not really
caring for them. The opulence of these upper class 19th Century
New Yorkers is not so engaging and so little else is on offer.
Daniel-Day Lewis is superb as lawyer Newland Archer, unfortunately
Michelle Pfeiffer and Winona Ryder are awful and out of their depth
as the women in Archer's life. The film looks amazing and is technically
as good as it gets but the over all effect is so what
and so cold, cold cold.