One movie I’ll watch over and over: “The Age of Innocence,” directed by Martin Scorcese in 1993. It’s a gorgeously realized version of the great novel by Edith Wharton.
It stars Daniel Day-Lewis as Newland Archer, a passionate but repressed man of New York’s upper classes. His life seems tranquil, with its course set in stone by his engagement to the lovely and sweet May Welland, played fetchingly by Winona Ryder. But her beautiful cousin, Countess Ellen Olenska, played by Michelle Pfeiffer, returns to New York in flight from a terrible marriage to a Polish count who has stolen her fortune and abused her.
Newland, the family lawyer, helps the Countess get legally free of the Count, but falls hopelessly in love with her, and she with him. It’s touch and go, but he honorably chooses to marry May as planned. The story is about the terrible costs of following social convention instead of following one’s heart.
The movie was nominated for several Academy awards, and won for Best Costume Design. The acting and storytelling are flawless. The fine actress Joanne Woodward supplies the ironic but compassionate narration, beautifully weaving in the words of Edith Wharton herself. After several viewings, I still tear up at certain points.
Join me next time for more explorations in the art and history of Europe, which has often intertwined with American history.