Tag Archives: The Age of Innocence

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.
boo-booSwapping 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.
odysseyFrom 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

“Sometimes You Just Can’t Win”

Don’t you just hate it when the lovers don’t end up together? Damn realism, I think most people get a knot in the stomach when the credits roll and you realise that the lovers will remain apart. The thing is, it works in films. So many classics have been memorable precisely because the lovers end up apart, it hurts, but it still rings true.Boom BoomThe Age of Innocence and Flesh and Bone are two films that I think do the deed better than most. Interestingly enough they were released just two months apart in the Autumn of 1993. I go back and forth on which film is superior, but they are two films that had a very profound impact on me – for very similar reasons.
Beautiful Heartbreak (2)Flowers erupt sensually into bloom in the opening credits of The Age of Innocence, exploding with an intensity and passion that wasn’t tolerated in the era it depicts. That time and place is New York’s high society in the 1870s as Edith Wharton so beautifully described it in her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel.
Ellen (Michelle Pfeiffer)
The Age of Innocence concerns the struggle between individualism and society and the complications of falling in love with the wrong person when you’ve committed to someone else. A young lawyer named Newland Archer (Daniel Day-Lewis) is happily engaged to a seemingly plain woman named May (Winona Ryder). Archer practically bursts with joy at his impending nuptials — until he meets her exotic cousin, Countess Ellen Olenska (Michelle Pfeiffer).Ravishing in RedThe social scene keeps Ellen at arm’s length when she flees Europe and her philandering husband to return to New York. Society frowns upon her actions, not so much for making a bad marriage to an outsider but for admitting her mistake publicly and leaving the situation. In the 1870s, her social circle viewed it as better to be married and miserable than divorced and at peace. Ellen in the SunshineThe Age of Innocence is a beautiful period piece, but above all else, it is an actors’ film. Winona Ryder excels playing a young woman who isn’t as bland as she appears and Michelle Pfeiffer and Daniel Day-Lewis are as emotionally compelling as any movie pairing I can remember. They’re a feast for the eyes, and by the time the lenses of Michael Ballhaus linger on The Age of Innocence’s final scene, your hunger for exquisite film making will have been more than satisfied.
Flesh and Bone FeaturedA hundred years and the width of the cinematic spectrum away from the New York of The Age Of Innocence; the wide vistas of West Texas are the backdrop to Flesh and Bone, a tale of two lovers-by-chance haunted by a past darker than they know.Boo BooIn an opening scene reminiscent of In Cold Blood, a young boy is used as a decoy to get his father into an isolated farmhouse. The father is a thief, and a murderer, shockingly revealed when he shoots dead the entire family, with the exception of a baby girl. 25 years later, it’s destined that the young boy and girl will meet again. It’s a small world out there under the vast West Texas sky.West Texas Countryside Rolls byMartin Scorsese got striking visuals from Michael Ballhaus on The Age of Innocence, but Flesh and Bone‘s cinematographer Philippe Rousellot may be even more a virtuoso. The Texas landscape is arid and scorched, but his visuals are as luminous as shards of ice. Flesh and Bone‘s views are reminiscent of the film’s of Terrence Malick, from the grocery stores and bus stations, right down to the empty beer bottles in a wash basin at dawn.Arlis and KaySomething Flesh and Bone shares with The Age of Innocence is a sweeping romance that’s doomed to fail, and watching the desires and yearnings of these frustrated lovers will leave you aching for the future that they’ll never share. Dennis Quaid and Meg Ryan draw their characters so well, moments between the two are just gorgeous to watch. Even without the benefit of romantic lighting and luminous costumes they bring out the essence of beauty. No one here is playing at anything. It’s a world these actors seem to possess in their DNA. The chemistry between them is effortless, and a perfect corollary to the wonderfully intense desire shared by Daniel Day-Lewis and Michelle Pfeiffer.

Ellen and Newland

The scenes between Edith Wharton’s exiled lovers are remarkable for the gamut of emotions they go through. 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 passion between Newland and Ellen touches a nerve, and their few intimate moments together will leave you holding your breath. Heartbreakingly tragic.

Ellens Eyes on Boo BooThe Age of Innocence or Flesh and Bone? What are your thoughts? 


Filed under Review