Haunting, Powerful, Passionate: The Age of Innocence and Flesh and Bone

1993 was a year stacked with fine films. From The Piano and Schindler’s List to Groundhog Day and Jurassic Park. It was a year of unheralded classics. Of The Age of Innocence and Flesh and Bone. It was also the year of the blonde.
Swapping Norah Ephron’s Seattle for Steve Kloves’ West Texas, Meg Ryan gave an indelible performance as a haunting golden-locked woman. Michelle Pfeiffer oozed class, elegance and repressed emotion in Martin Scorsese’s adaptation of Edith Warton. Gwyneth Paltrow and Winona Ryder excelled in supporting roles, but it’s Ryan’s tears at the end of her film that always get to me. Such skill.
meg-and-gwynethIt’s strange though, that The Age of Innocence made a mere 32 million at the box-office, but it’s even more ridiculous when you realise that Flesh and Bone made less than a third of that. Four great actors. Dark-hearted brilliance. How was this movie shrugged off by critics and audiences alike?
michelle-and-danielSomething Flesh and Bone shares with The Age of Innocence is a love between two people that can never be; and there is something heartbreaking about such obviously strong feelings going completely unspoken. It’s a wondrous thing to watch as Dennis Quaid (in Flesh and Bone) and Daniel Day-Lewis (in The Age of Innocence) try to mask the flames consuming their hearts.
battered-but-not-brokenQuaid and Meg Ryan draw their characters so well, moments between the two are just gorgeous to watch. Bereft of romantic lighting and luminous costumes they create a chemistry as hot as the roaring fires that pop up constantly throughout The Age of Innocence. No one here is playing at anything. It’s a world this couple seem to possess in their DNA. Their subtle, naturalistic acting is exhilarating, forming a perfect corollary to the barely constrained passion of Daniel Day-Lewis and Michelle Pfeiffer.
newland-and-the-countessPassions run deep between Edith Wharton’s forbidden lovers.Their furtive glances and embraces behind closed doors are electric, but they also demonstrate that sometimes less can be more. Little things like the removal of a glove and a kiss on the neck are all so erotic, and all so poignant. The scenes shared by Daniel and Michelle touch a nerve, making for one of the greatest, most exquisitely painful heartbreaks of all time.
From the masterpieces to the crowd pleasers, 1993 was an amazing year. Carlito’s Way, Cliffhanger, The Firm, In the Name of the Father, Judgment Night and Mad Dog and Glory. All were gifts bestowed to us by the movie gods, but The Age of Innocence and Flesh and Bone had the most profound effect on me. For very similar reasons.

Ellens Eyes on Boo BooSo, which of these forbidden lovers thrill you the most?




Filed under Retrospective

18 responses to “Haunting, Powerful, Passionate: The Age of Innocence and Flesh and Bone

  1. Lovely post. Daniel Day-Lewis is to me what Meg and Michelle are to you. I must admit I’ve never heard of Flesh and Bone but it “looks” really good – I’m a little nervous to watch it though – looks like I’ll be on the edge of my seat.

    • Flesh and Bone haunts me. I’m sure some people wouldn’t consider Dennis and Meg worthy of mention in same breath as Daniel and Michelle Pfeiffer, but I’m not one of them. Flesh and Bone and The Age of Innocence are both superb in their own individual ways. They’d make for one mesmerising double bill.

      • Absolutely. And of course you can mention all these actors in the same breath! They’re all great! Age of Innocence was wonderful. I’ve put Flesh and Bone on my watch list and will definitely let you know how it goes. By the way, did you see my question on the Meg movie Restoration? Have you seen it? Any good?

        • I did see your comment about Restoration and I could have sworn I replied…mysterious!
          I have seen the film, many years ago, but I’m not sure I could recommend it. All I know is Meg played an Irish asylum inmate and her hair was longer than I’ve ever seen it. This was just before she adopted the pixie cut for I.Q. and French Kiss.

  2. Great post 🙂 As far as film adaptations of Edith Wharton’s novels go, Terence Davies House of Mirth is the greatest. Speaking of which, on my blog, I have posts regarding my favorite Spielberg films since you mention Schindler’s List and Jurassic Park and Brian De Palma since you mention Carlito’s Way 🙂 1993 had a lot of great films which include but are not limited to Robert Altman’s Short Cuts, Terence Davies The Long Day Closes and Alan Rudolph’s Equinox. Anyway, keep up the great work as always 🙂

    P.S. what did you think of Michelle Pfeiffer’s portrayal of Titania in A Mid-Summer Night’s Dream? That is If you saw the film? 🙂 Once again, keep up the great work as always 🙂

    • I will have a look at your Spielberg and De Palma posts. I always value your judgement and it’s nice to use your knowledge to plan some future viewing.
      It’s a long time since I watched A Mid-Summer Night’s Dream, but from what I remember Michelle was radiant as Titania! I hadn’t realised it was directed by Michael Hoffman who isn’t very prolific, but was in the chair for Restoration and Pfeiffer’s One Fine Day.

      • Speaking of Restoration, Meg Ryan appeared in that and Michelle Pfeiffer was in two of Michael Hoffman’s (the aforementioned One Fine Day and A Midsummer Night’s Dream). What a coincidence since your blog talks about the films of Meg Ryan and Michelle Pfeiffer 🙂 Anyway, keep up the great work as always 🙂

        • It’s funny how often Meg and Michelle have been less than six degrees of separation from each other. I do think Pfeiffer would have been a better fit for Restoration and One Fine Day was more of a Meg Ryan-ish movie. Michael Hoffman obviously thought differently.

  3. RB

    Wow. Great post. I am floored that you chose to highlight the movie year 1993 as the larger context for showcasing two fine films. 1993 will always be an amazing movie year to me, and if I had to pick one word to describe it, that would be “creativity.” Creativity was the common thread among blockbusters and overlooked gems alike. In addition to the films mentioned, “The Remains of the Day” is one of my all time favorites. “Flesh and Bone” is the type of film that had to happen in this year of innovative spirit. “The Age of Innocence” I still have to see. “Carlito’s Way” was another knockout stunner. Among the overlooked gems, check out “Ruby in Paradise” starring Ashley Judd, “Blown Away” with Tommy Lee Jones, and Bill Murray’s “Lost in Translation.” I have had a draft post in the works about 1993 forever and you just beat me to the punch, Paul. Well done!

    • Thanks RB, I am trying to expand the scope of the blog, but still find myself fixating on Meg and Michelle.
      I know you’ve got a lot on at the moment, but I do hope you get around to finishing your 1993 post. It was a great year, the year that my moviegoing hit its stride with a vengeance, with Jurassic Park the signature cinematic event of the summer. I haven’t seen The Remains of the Day but do remember Blown Away… and blown away is how I felt after watching Flesh and Bone. Strangely I didn’t see Sleepless in Seattle at the cinema, but Falling Down and Last Action Hero are two other films from the year that just sprang to mind.

      Best Wishes, Paul.

  4. great post Paul, in the title you mention The Piano, i was waiting to read something on it from you??? anyway, that was the movie.. my husband announced..i was No Longer in charge of picking movies out :)) Me.. I loved it 🙂

    • I was surprised at how much I loved The Piano when I first watched it back in the day. I’m sure it’s not considered the kind of movie a young guy should enjoy, but I really did.

  5. I haven’t seen either of these films – it sounds like I’m really missing out! I love the idea of Meg Ryan & Dennis Quaid’s natural acting, just as much as the suppressed characters played by Daniel Day Lewis and Michelle Pfeiffer. Thanks for introducing me to these two films. 🙂

    • You’re welcome, I’m sure you’ll enjoy them because these films are gorgeous. It’s tough to pick favourites when it comes to the principal players. My mind edges to DDL but this is easily my favourite role from Meg. I’m enthralled every time I watch her in Flesh and Bone.

  6. Love your Age of Innocence analysis, probably because I feel the exact same way about that film. No matter how often I watch, Pfeiffer’s performance (and Day-Lewis’s, of course) still crushes me. Absolute perfection. Beautiful work. Awards are pretty meaningless but it still blows my mind that she wasn’t even nominated for this one!

    Also, I’m a huge Carlito’s Way and Judgement Night fan. You’re right, 1993 was a great year at the movies.

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