Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Age of Innocence (Martin Scorsese)

two people consuming the fruits of forbidden love.

Film Review Archive (date seen: January 4, 2011)

Once again, Scorsese leads us through places almost bound with secrecy, wrapped in customs, littered with hidden scandals, and the people that inhabits them whose mastery of conversations, socialization, and even dining were too great in its artificiality that they almost looked like performance acts. No, it's not the Italian-flavored crimeland we're talking about here, but 19th century New York where high society dwells on everything material and excessive, where moral righteousness is not a code to follow but more of a trend to fashionably don.

At first, I had doubts if Scorsese's known visual compositions really belong to such a type of film set in an era of restraint and conservatism. But with his combination of attention to details and an inclined exploratory viewpoint of the social class' amoral gutters amidst its elegant vanity, he used a distinct style (at times, darkening everything on screen but a smooth-edged circle to contain the main subjects, or even letting a character face the camera and speak of a potentially saddening letter with great joy and eagerness) to really fit the film's grasp of irony. Those who accuse Daniel Day-Lewis as a scenery-chewing hack will be utterly disproved in his performance in this film, using the fine attitudes of an obligatory gentleman to depict the numbered movements of an 1870's society male while maintaining his attachment with controlled subtlety. With this type of acting approach, Day-Lewis has able to internalize and show on screen his character Newland Archer's episodic implosions about his clamor for freeing himself from the bondage of his class' norms about love.

Though "The Age of Innocence" had its moments of beautifying high society's excessive lifestyles, Martin Scorsese and Edith Wharton's novel (from which the film was adapted) have successfully portrayed an escapist love surrounded by eyes of the self-righteous ones, the impossibility of its fruition, and the beauty of its acceptance. Living the life of grandeur may be like lying in a bed of roses, but the occasional thorns sure do hurt.


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