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The Age of Innocence (1993) is an Americanmarker motion picture released by Columbia Pictures, directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Michelle Pfeiffer and Winona Ryder. It is a cinematic adaptation of the 1920 novel of the same name by Edith Wharton.

The film won the Academy Award for Best Costume Design, and was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Winona Ryder), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score and Best Art Direction.

Plot

Newland Archer (Daniel Day-Lewis) is an affluent lawyer in 1870s New Yorkmarker, engaged to May Welland (Winona Ryder), a beautiful but conventional socialite. Newland begins to question the life he has planned for himself after the arrival of May’s cousin, the exotic and sophisticated Countess Ellen Olenska (Michelle Pfeiffer). Ellen is a passionate lover who is seeking a divorce from her abusive husband, a Polish count, which has made her a social outcast and greatly displeases her family, who are afraid of scandal. As Newland grows to love and care more and more deeply for Ellen, having convinced her not to press for a divorce, he becomes increasingly disillusioned with the society to which he belongs and the idea of entering into a passionless marriage with May. The question at this point, is whether he will follow society's dictates, or those of his heart. The film, closely mirroring the novel, gives no simple answer.

Cast



  • Director Martin Scorsese makes a cameo appearance as the photographer taking May Welland's wedding picture.
  • Scorsese's parents, Charles and Catherine, make cameo appearances in the train station scene. The film is dedicated to Charles Scorsese, who died before it was completed.
  • Tamasin Day-Lewis, the sister of Daniel Day-Lewis, makes a cameo appearance as the woman admiring May Welland's engagement ring at the Beauforts' ball.


Production

Daniel Day-Lewis, Michelle Pfeiffer and Winona Ryder were all Martin Scorsese's first choices for the lead roles.

The Age of Innocence was filmed on location in New Yorkmarker, USAmarker, and in Parismarker, Francemarker. The opera scenes were filmed at the Philadelphia Academy of Musicmarker in Philadelphia, Pennsylvaniamarker. The scenes set in the home of Mrs. Mingott were filmed at the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity house in Troy, New Yorkmarker. Only one major set was built, for an ornate ballroom sequence at the Beaufort residence.

The famous paintings featured in the film were high-quality reproductions by Troubetzkoy Paintings Ltd.

Reception

Critical response

The Age of Innocence currently holds a score of 81% on Rotten Tomatoes, and a score of 83 on Metacritic, indicating largely positive reviews from critics.

Vincent Canby in the New York Times wrote: "Taking The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton's sad and elegantly funny novel about New York's highest society in the 1870's, Martin Scorsese has made a gorgeously uncharacteristic Scorsese film... Ms. Ryder is wonderful as this sweet young thing who's hard as nails, as much out of ignorance as of self-interest. Ms. Pfeiffer is lovely, the visual focal point of the film, but also much more. With her soft voice, her reserve and her quickness of mind, her Ellen has emotional weight. She's the film's heart and conscience. Mr. Day-Lewis has a good, upper-class American accent, but at first seems more of an English dandy than a well-bred American with an inquiring mind. The performance seems to improve as the film goes along. He's a terrifically accomplished actor, but the screenplay does him a disservice... Mr. Scorsese and Michael Ballhaus, the cinematographer, employ a camera style of sometimes dizzy, sweeping, lyrical romanticism. It works beautifully. Less successful is the way dialogue from a new scene is introduced before the old scene is quite through... The excellent supporting cast, largely English, includes Michael Gough, Richard E. Grant, Alec McCowen, Jonathan Pryce, Stuart Wilson and, as May's formidably autocratic and overweight grandmother, Miriam Margolyes, an actress who recalls Laura Hope Crews (Aunt Pittypat in Gone with the Wind) but with a spine of steel... The film is the work of one of America's handful of master craftsmen, a director whose decisions command attention and haunt the imagination, even when they don't entirely succeed."

Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times wrote: "The story told here is brutal and bloody, the story of a man's passion crushed, his heart defeated. Yet it is also much more, and the last scene of the film, which pulls everything together, is almost unbearably poignant... Each performance is modulated to preserve the delicate balance of the romantic war. Daniel Day-Lewis stands at the center, deluded for a time that he has free will. Michelle Pfeiffer, as the countess, is a woman who sees through society without quite rejecting it, and takes an almost sensuous pleasure in seducing Archer with the power of her mind. At first it seems that little May is an unwitting bystander and victim, but Winona Ryder gradually reveals the depth of her character's intelligence, and in the last scene, as I said, all is revealed and much is finally understood. Scorsese is known for his restless camera; he rarely allows a static shot. But here you will have the impression of grace and stateliness in his visual style, and only on a second viewing will you realize the subtlety with which his camera does, indeed, incessantly move."

Peter Travers in Rolling Stone wrote: "In this classic love story, Martin Scorsese sweeps us away on waves of dizzying eroticism and rapturous romance... A superlative cast catches Wharton's urgency. Ryder, at her loveliest, finds the guile in the girlish May - she'll use any ruse that will help her hold on to Archer. Day-Lewis is smashing as the man caught between his emotions and the social ethic. Not since Olivier in Wuthering Heights has an actor matched piercing intelligence with such imposing good looks and physical grace. Pfeiffer gives the performance of a lifetime as the outcast countess. With her hair in tight curls that accentuate her pale beauty, she seems lit from within... The Age of Innocence is a visual feast in which Scorsese and his collaborators - cinematographer Michael Ballhaus and editor Thelma Schoonmaker - ravish the senses... Scorsese has made the most extravagantly heartfelt film of his career about the impossibility of believing that love conquers all."

Desson Howe in the Washington Post wrote: "There's an alert, thinking presence behind the camera. And, in front of the camera, performers Daniel Day-Lewis, Michelle Pfeiffer and Winona Ryder suffuse this saga of repressed longing and spiritual suffering with elegant authority... Pfeiffer is the strongest presence of all... Ryder, clearly the rookie here, is rather dull and pallid. But she's being used correctly. She fulfills her thankless role perfectly... Innocence is graced with wonderful acting support, particularly from Miriam Margolyes, as an amusingly imperial - and Yoda-esque - dowager; Stuart Wilson, a quasi-rival of Day-Lewis's for Pfeiffer's affections; and the wonderfully eccentric Richard E. Grant as Larry Lefferts, a fussy cataloguer of the social ups and downs of New York's upper strata... Known primarily for modern street pictures, such as Taxi Driver and GoodFellas, Scorsese shows he can flex an entirely different set of muscles and still make a great movie.

Todd McCarthy in Variety wrote: "For sophisticated viewers with a taste for literary adaptations and visits to the past, there is a great deal here to savor... In both their exquisite appearance and sheer quantity, Dante Ferretti's production design and Gabriella Pescucci's costume design are practically beyond compare, and Michael Ballhaus surpasses himself with his resplendent widescreen cinematography... Day-Lewis cuts an impressive figure as Newland... The two principal female roles are superbly filled. For any actress to make the transition from Catwoman to Ellen Olenska would be impressive, and that Pfeiffer succeeds here as she did in her last film is the most conclusive proof yet of her widening talents. Ryder is also perfect as the child-woman with a more tenacious instinct than her retiring manner would indicate... Scorsese brings great energy to what could have been a very static story, although his style is more restrained and less elaborate than usual. Script by the director and former film critic Jay Cocks judiciously trims the story down to manageable length while retaining its essential elements. Elmer Bernstein's score is full-bodied and richly romantic, Thelma Schoonmaker's editing is very finely tuned and the scene transitions are notably varied."

Rita Kempley, also in the Washington Post, wrote: "Perhaps it shouldn't come as such a grand surprise that he [Martin Scorsese] is as deft at exploring the nuances of Edwardian manners as he is the laws of modern-day machismo... Ryder, whose performance is as neatly turned as her ankle, is fresh from Bram Stoker's Dracula, an experience that taught her a thing or two about sucking the life out of one's beloved. Of course, Day-Lewis, who counts tortured romanticism among his specialties, seems to relish love's exquisite pangs. He and Pfeiffer are physically as gorgeous together as their gilded surroundings. Pfeiffer is no stranger to period drama; she won an Oscar nomination for the role of Madame de Tourvel in Dangerous Liaisons. But de Tourvel traded her honor for passion, a bargain the more worldly countess could never bring herself to make."

Time Out wrote: "The performances are excellent, while the director employs all the tools of his trade to bring his characters and situations vividly to life... Everything here serves to express an erotic fervour, imprisoned by unbending social rituals designed to preserve the status quo in favour of a self-appointed aristocracy. Scorsese's most poignantly moving film."

Marc Savlov in the Austin Chronicle wrote: "Despite the uniformly excellent performances by Day-Lewis (who's beginning to sound more and more like John Malkovich these days), Ryder, and Pfeiffer - as Newland Archer, his fiancée May Welland, and the Countess Olenska, respectively - the film leaves you with the feeling, once again, of having enjoyed a lovely meal fit for royalty only to discover, too late, that the fruit was made of wax and the roast was little more than a Styrofoam mock-up. You've got ennui between your teeth, dear heart, so go floss. At two hours and 13 minutes, Scorsese has allowed himself enough time to follow Wharton's book to the letter, and also enough time to include long stretches of painfully wearisome society functions and banter. As a period piece, it's a joy to behold, but with such an indecisive little newt of a protagonist, it's just hard to give a damn what happens."

Awards and nominations

At the Academy Awards, The Age of Innocence won the Academy Award for Best Costume Design (Gabriella Pescucci), and was nominated for the awards for Best Supporting Actress (Winona Ryder), Best Adapted Screenplay (Jay Cocks, Martin Scorsese), Best Original Score (Elmer Bernstein) and Best Art Direction (Dante Ferretti, Robert J. Franco).

At the Golden Globe Awards, The Age of Innocence won the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress - Motion Picture (Winona Ryder), and was nominated for the awards for Best Motion Picture - Drama, Best Director - Motion Picture (Martin Scorsese) and Best Actress - Motion Picture Drama (Michelle Pfeiffer).

At the British Academy Film Awards (BAFTAs), The Age of Innocence won the BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Miriam Margolyes). The film received another nomination in this category, for Winona Ryder, and was also nominated for the awards for Best Cinematography (Michael Ballhaus) and Best Production Design (Dante Ferretti).

In addition to her Academy Award and BAFTA Award nominations and Golden Globe Award win, Winona Ryder won the National Board of Review Award for Best Supporting Actress and the Southeastern Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actress.

In addition to his Academy Award and Golden Globe Award nominations, Martin Scorsese won the National Board of Review Award for Best Director and the Elvira Notari Prize at the Venice Film Festival (shared with Michelle Pfeiffer), as well as a nomination for the Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directing - Feature Film.

Elmer Bernstein was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Composition Written for a Motion Picture or Television.

Awarding Body Award Nominee Result
Academy Awards Best Supporting Actress Winona Ryder nomination
Best Adapted Screenplay Jay Cocks, Martin Scorsese nomination
Best Original Score Elmer Bernstein nomination
Best Art Direction Dante Ferretti, Robert J. Franco nomination
Best Costume Design Gabriella Pescucci winner
British Academy Film Awards Best Actress in a Supporting Role Miriam Margolyes winner
Best Actress in a Supporting Role Winona Ryder nomination
Best Cinematography Michael Ballhaus nomination
Best Production Design Dante Ferretti nomination
Directors Guild of America Awards Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures Martin Scorsese nomination
Golden Globe Awards Best Motion Picture - Drama nomination
Best Director - Motion Picture Martin Scorsese nomination
Best Actress - Motion Picture Drama Michelle Pfeiffer nomination
Best Supporting Actress - Motion Picture Winona Ryder winner
Grammy Awards Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Composition Written for a Motion Picture or Television Elmer Bernstein nomination
National Board of Review Best Director Martin Scorsese winner
Best Supporting Actress Winona Ryder winner
Southeastern Film Critics Association Southeastern Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actress Winona Ryder winner
Venice Film Festival Elvira Notari Prize Martin Scorsese, Michelle Pfeiffer winner


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