Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Innocents.

Jose here to celebrate one of the greatest acting duets of all time, who today also happen to share a birthday.



In Martin Scorsese's The Age of Innocence Michelle Pfeiffer (52 today) and Daniel Day-Lewis (53 today) play doomed lovers in 1870's New York City. She's the Countess Olenska, an outcast returning to American society where she's met with quiet hostility and he plays the reserved Newland Archer, who happens to be engaged to the Countess' cousin (Winona Ryder).

Marty fills the movie with nuances that had been uncharacteristic of his work at the time but works his visionary camera moves and Thelma Schoonmaker's vibrant editing seamlessly into a plot that usually would've been done in a less "flashy" style. What we get with this technique is a perfect embodiment of Edith Wharton's tale of repression in contrast with the modern NYC Marty eventually captured in his earlier films.

Never is this repression and stylistic wonder more perfect than in a scene where Newland finally declares his love for Olenska.



After a jealous fit, worthy of a lover, Newland confronts Olenska. As she turns around he begins to kiss her neck.



Soon they embrace, as Olenska sobs and Newland unleashes the "revolutionary" he thinks he is.
Any skeptical people who thought Pfeiffer and Day-Lewis had no spark, would have to eat their words during this moment.



It's only a few seconds later that Marty introduces one of his dazzling stylistic methods. The mood changes from fiery passion to forbidden romance as the camera and cuts become smoother and we only listen to Olenska's words while the images show us the context.



As if we were reading from the book; our imagination providing the images with the aid of narration not limited by the mouth movements of the characters, we listen as Olenska says
You couldn't be happy if it meant being cruel.

If we act any other way I'll be making you act against what I love in you the most and I can't go back to that way of thinking.

Don't you see I can't love you unless I give you up.


The camera then zooms out to reveal them in the kind of embrace Wharton probably dreamt of while writing this scene. Like the ornaments in the Countess' house, this image of them remains frozen in time, a souvenir of the love they never come to fulfill.

Today might be their birthday but The Age of Innocence sure feels like a present made for me.

Do you think Michelle and Daniel are as flawless as I think? What's your favorite thing they've done?

22 comments:

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

God this film is gorgeous. It's tough to pick favourites, my mind edges to "My Left Foot" for DDL but this is easily my favourite moment from Michelle. The snub heard around the world? I am enthralled every time I watch this film. Isn't Michelle's performance one of the best from any Scorsese woman?

Craig said...

That definitely was the best scene in the film. Only once did I feel Pfeiffer was acting, and not totally immersed in her character -- that was when she looked uncomforatble corseted in her costume sitting in a chair . . . .

Favorite Pfeiffer performance? Has to be in The Fabulous Baker Boys . A close second would be Madame de Tourvel in Dangerous Liaisons and Ingrid Magnussen in White Oleander. Come to think of it, Pfeiffer has yer to turn in nothing but stellar performances.

Marsha Mason said...

OMG, I was mere hours from sharing a birthday with so many acting badasses! What was my problem? As is I'm left with I think CLoris Leachman!

mrripley said...

why was she overlooked in 93 they were in love with her from 88 - 92 then 0,i get hunters,thompsons,channings and bassetts noms i don't buy wingers wtf!!

Anonymous said...

Dear Jose,

beautiful text. worth to be sided with this beautiful film.

Marcelo - Brazil.

Anonymous said...

mrripley,

I was shocked when Channing and Winger were announced and Pfeiffer was snubbed.

Marcelo - Brazil.

ShoNuff Lives said...

such a beautiful film. i lost my breath for a moment when michelle walks across the room in that red dress. there were other stunning moments, for sure, but that crossing was stellar. of course, the vision of her standing on the pier in the sunset is how we all wish to be found. such a shame that she was overlooked, and i'm still not sure why.

NicksFlickPicks said...

Lovely, Jose!

Christine said...

I would pay any kind of money for a Pfeiffer and Day-Lewis reunion. I don't care what it's in. Sometimes I miss the old Hollywood system, which would have had them starring in about 8 million films together. They have a grown-up kind of chemistry that's compelling.

mrripley said...

Nat,Why was she snubbed?

You must have thoughts on this.

Jose said...

Thank you so much Marcelo and Nick! I'm very pleased you enjoyed this!

morrissey said...

Classic! Happy Birthday to both of the true talents!

Amanda said...

That movie is breathtaking!!! The Opera scene, that carriage scene, the last scene......

One of the best "greatest love stories of all time" movies ever made.

Its a shame we dont get to see love stories between grown ups anymore.

NATHANIEL R said...

i think the snub for Pfeiffer can be explained by the general reception of the film which was not one of awed worship but 'eh... it's pretty' and the media really latched on to the idea that Winona Ryder was best in show. Due i think to her character arc.

and then it was also a really stellar year for actresses. I mean who wants to bitch about the nominations for Hunter, Channing or Bassett (who would all fight for my medals if the year were held today)?

I love Remains of the Day but I wouldn't have nominated Emma for it. But she would have still been in the list for Much Ado About Nothing!

great actress year i think.

and that's before you even get to Pfeiffer or some foreign language performances.

NATHANIEL R said...

oh and great piece Jose. Thank you! i've always thought it was just gorgeous and right that they share a birthday.

Alison Flynn said...

I love this movie and they are both fantastic in it. One of my favorite DDL performances and one of my favorite Scorsese movies.

I'm a day too early to share a birthday with them. As consolation though I do share a birthday with two sexy, sexy actresses - Penelope Cruz and Ann-Margaret. :D

notanotherblog said...

I'm just very partial to this movie because I like seeing Marty's girly side.

ferdi said...

"The Age Of Innocence" is still my favourite movie of all time. Thank you for this post. Pfeiffer is sublime. There will be no one like her.Period.

mrripley said...

I though 'cos it was a winger comeback of sorts plus winger had a dangerous woamn too plus in 93 there was binoche and ryan doing good work too.

Dimitra said...

This is my least favorite of the Scorcese films I've seen. I found it watchable, but overall a little boring.:/

Batgirl said...

I love this film. And I think it's the most delicate of the Day Lewis roles. He usually is more intense, but here is perfect, so subtle (I don't know if this is the right word, I'm using wordreference!). The film is full of precious scenes, things that they don't say, don't do... Why did he let her go? How sad...

CMrok93 said...

A great and provocative film that not many people know from Scorsese. And that's a shame cause they really should.