Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Age of Innocence
For the whole course of the project so far, Anthony and I have been interested in what movie lands on people's birthdays. Usually it's something really strange that we haven't heard of before, except for two person, who actually got a movie they really enjoyed on their birthday for some reason (two of our friends share the same birthday and like the Godfather, which is what landed on their day). I was really happy that I happened to have two Scorsese films in a row. :) I never saw today's movie - Age of Innocence - until now, but it was fun to watch and at least it was by one of my favorite directors!
Here's a quick plot summary so I can write something interesting: "Society scion Newland Archer is engaged to May Welland, but his well-ordered life is upset when he meets May's unconventional cousin, the Countess Olenska. At first, Newland becomes a defender of the Countess, whose separation from her abusive husband makes her a social outcast in the restrictive high society of late-19th Century New York, but he finds in her a companion spirit and they fall in love," (IMDB). It sounds sort of boring, as does the plot of most period pieces.
I like it, though. Perhaps period films appeal to my lazy side. "Ah yes, today I will wake up and be fed breakfast. Then someone else will dress me, and I'll sit at my desk for a while and write letters. Later, I'll go to lunch with my friends, and we will gossip and make dinner plans. Maybe later we will order dresses and cutlery!" Errr...Not really. I like the slower pace, though, and the elaborate costuming. They just are really interesting to watch. And honestly, they're often about wealthy people lolling about, which I envy, so it's sort of a fun fantasy, you know?
This movie is interesting because it has a real edge to it. In Ebert's essay (really bad paraphrasing coming up, check it out yourself to get a better idea of what I'm trying to say), he mentions talking with Scorsese about the film. Scorsese mentions that he was drawn to it because there was a certain violence to the manners and customs of the time. I think that it's a really interesting and a true statement for the film, and certainly gave it a different twist than some other period films have. People hide their intentions under their manners, and they hide their anger and contempt in the various already antiquated customs that they partake in. In the essay, Scorsese compares the underhanded way of doing things in the past to how he grew up, where violence and brutality was out in the open. "I don't know which is preferable," he wonders. I do, too.
I like that this movie is so different than what we normally see from Scorsese. I think it's why I know so few people who have ever seen it. Fans of Taxi Driver are not really flocking to see historical fiction films like this, I venture to guess, but they should be. I think it's a great film, a beautiful and engrossing movie. I love that Scorsese took something that could have been boring in the hands of any other director, but made a connection to make it his own. It's still a story like he enjoys telling, just set in a different time period, with hidden brutality instead of obvious. The acting is great, the cinematography is great, and the story is great - I loved the whole thing. I wish more people would give this movie a chance, and not let the genre turn them off, especially if they are Scorsese fans.
I really want to keep writing - I think Ebert's essay was so interesting, and it really gave me a lot to think about. His insights he got when talking to Scorsese are so valuable and fascinating, The essay is worth reading even if you don't plan on watching the film. I really got a whole new appreciation for Scorsese out of this movie. I think it's so great when a director can be flexible and work across multiple genres. It didn't feel like any of his other movies, and I think that's a good thing. Sometimes I like to see directors who have a style that sort of comes before everything else (Burton comes to mind), but I personally think that a truly talented director (no offense to Burton here) can put aside his personal style and tell different sorts of stories and direct in a wide variety of ways. And hey, Martin Scorsese can do that, and that's just one of the many reasons why he is awesome.
Have any thoughts on Age of Innocence? Share them in the comments!
Ebert's Great Movie Essay on Age of Innocence
Buy or rent it on Amazon