The Age of Innocence (1993)

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Martin Scorsese directs Michelle Pfeiffer, Daniel Day-Lewis and Winona Ryder in this Edith Wharton adaptation of unrequited passions in new New York.

What an absolute treat to watch this on the big screen. One of Scorsese’s most diverting and unique movies, taking his favourite themes of societal responsibility, the formation of New York, the seduction of wealth and the futility in going against the tribe. He enters into a project that has the initial feel of a completely alien genre to him. The first hour sees him working his magic subtly, dialling back all his confident strengths, but the occasional masterful flourish still appears. Flashes of primary colours burn the screen to express stirred up desires, the camera waltzes around a social occasion like a child playing tag between the adults and the overhead shots of elaborate dinner party food being prepared shift from wholesome and delicious looking in the early chapters to sugary and artificial as this world of gossipy dining and prying opera eventually reveal its true nature. Two great female leads; Pfeiffer has never been better as the trapped, worldy yet fragile Countess, Ryder puts in a deceptively layered turn as outwardly naive fiancée Meg. So it all grinds to a noticeable halt in the penultimate act, we awkwardly spend a little too long than is pleasurable watching the lovers silently suffering as they fully realise their imagined happy ending is being edited away by all around them. That doesn’t disclude how powerful and masterful a work this is on the whole from a great director taking long strides out of his comfort zone. Beautiful and affecting, proof that literary period romances do not need to be comforting or staid. Fans of LaLa Land’s controversial ending might see a familiar echo here too.

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