THE AGE OF INNOCENCE
Review by Gordon Justesen
Day-Lewis, Michelle Pfieffer, Winona Ryder
Director: Martin Scorsese
Audio: DTS HD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Features: See Review
Length: 138 Minutes
Release Date: March 13, 2018
“You gave me my first glimpse of a real life. And then you ask me to carry on with a false one. No one can endure that.”
“I’m enduring it.”
The Age of Innocence illustrates more than anything how versatile such a filmmaker can be. When one thinks of the works of Martin Scorsese, perhaps the single greatest director living right now, such darker, edgier pieces come to mind. Films such as Taxi Driver, GoodFellas and Cape Fear, all of which pound the pulse with dark scenes of violence and brutality. Having watched those films countless times, it seemed that he was always right at home with such material. The Age of Innocence opened my eyes to a whole new atmosphere; one that I thought I’d never see Scorsese create, which is the elegance of New York in 1870.
Watching the film, like all of Scorsese’s work, you are immediately engulfed in an assured place and time. The film opens by introducing it’s lead characters, followed by a brief exhibition of the society they inhabit. The early moments in the movie reminded me very much of the documentary-like feel of the first hour of Scorsese’s Casino.
Here, he applies the same technical feel, with narration by Joanne Woodward to help explain how those in the upper class maneuver and go about. At the center of the story is Newland Archer (Daniel Day-Lewis) who is engaged to marry the beautiful May Welland (Winona Ryder). It is described as a perfect marriage between two perfect families, and both parties seem to be equally satisfied, until one night at an opera, where Archer meets May’s cousin, the hauntingly beautiful Ellen, the Countess Olenska (Michelle Pfeiffer).
A beauty she is indeed, but that is not necessarily what attracts Archer. Rather it is the notion that she is a person with ideas of her own, looking upon his world with amusement and detachment of an exile. He is entirely excited by a woman who boldly thinks for herself.
The Age of Innocence is film told passionately and filmed beautifully at the hands of a technical master. Scorsese, along with cinematographer Michael Ballhaus (GoodFellas, The Last Temptation of Christ) exhibits the settings of this film with such remarkable passion, and it demonstrates that he is capable of making any kind of movie in any kind of setting. Such set pieces as the opera with opens the film, as well as a lavishly executed ballroom dance sequence. This is one film that knows anything and everything about its time and place.
The performances here are extraordinarily passionate as well. Daniel Day-Lewis, one of THE most dynamic actors of our time, immerses himself in the role of Newland Archer; a man who is caught between what is right for him and what he thinks he wants. Michelle Pfeiffer has rarely been as remarkable as she is here as Archer’s supreme desire. Winona Ryder reveals superb depth in her character, especially in the film’s final moments, which ties every loose end together.
The Age of Innocence is a film to be experienced. It’s a true feast for the senses, and a work of pure art.
BONUS: Scorsese himself, in a most fitting cameo, can be briefly spotted as a portrait photographer.
Criterion has been astounding us lately with one amazing 4k restoration after another...but this may just be their grandest one to date! Scorsese’s remarkable attention to detail regarding recreating the time period is enhanced even further by an immensely detailed 4k restoration which brings every bit of the scenery to absolute life. His use of colors in pivotal moments pop off the screen in was that will leave you awestruck. Image detail is strong and striking in both close ups and far away distance shots. The Oscar nominated production design and Oscar winning costume design show off wonderfully as a result. An absolute treat to witness if you’re a pure Scorsese fan!
Likewise, the masterful DTS HD mix does wonders in bringing this world to vivid life. Among the elements it encompasses terrifically well are Elmer Bernstein’s remarkable music score, as well as the capturing of Joanne Woodward’s narration. A great presence of ambient sounds also sneaks its way in every so often, breathing even more life into the surroundings. As expected, dialogue delivery is strong and profoundly heard from beginning to end!
It’s time to do away with that bare bones DVD release, as Criterion puts their signature stamp of excellence on this release. We are treated to several new video interviews, including a fascinating one with Scorsese about what drew him to this material, as well as made him step outside his comfort zone. We also get new interviews with co-screenwriter Jay Cocks, production designer Dante Ferretti and costume designer Gabriella Pescucci. Rounding out the supplements is a documentary from 1993 titled “Innocence and Experience”, where we get to see everyone involved in the film at a much younger age, a Trailer for the film and a terrific insert booklet featuring an essay by film critic Geoffrey O’Brien.
Scorsese and Criterion is a combination every film buff looks forward to, and the new Blu-ray release of The Age of Innocence is truly a joy to behold! The film represents the pure epitome of wonderful filmmaking as only Scorsese can deliver! One of the absolute must own releases of the year!