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Martin Scorsese
Daniel Day-Lewis, Michelle Pfeiffer, Winona Ryder
Writing Credits:
Jay Cocks, Martin Scorsese

A tale of 19th Century New York high society in which a young lawyer falls in love with a woman separated from her husband, while he is engaged to the woman's cousin.

Rated PG

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 138 min.
Price: $39.95
Release Date: 3/13/20188

• Interview with Director Martin Scorsese
• Interview with Co-Screenwriter Jay Cocks
• Interview with Production Designer Dante Ferretti
• Interview with Costume Designer Gabriella Pescucci
• “Innocence and Experience” Featurette
• Trailer
• Booklet


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The Age of Innocence: Criterion Collection [Blu-Ray] (1993)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 6, 2018)

When I saw ads for The Age of Innocence back in 1993, I assumed it offered the latest period costume drama from Ivory/Merchant. Via flicks like Howard’s End, they’d cornered the market on fare of that sort, so this seemed like a logical conclusion.

Imagine my surprise when I found out Martin Scorsese directed the film! A very different tale than Scorsese classics like GoodFellas and Taxi Driver, Innocence allowed Scorsese to stretch his stylistic legs.

Based on Edith Wharton’s 1920 novel, Innocence takes place in New York City circa the 1870s. Newland Archer (Daniel Day-Lewis) lives a privileged existence – for good and for bad, as his high social status also brings severe restrictions.

Engaged to pretty young socialite May Welland (Winona Ryder), Newland meets her older, married cousin Countess Ellen Olenska (Michelle Pfeiffer). Separated from her husband, Ellen brings social stigma with her, but Newland admires her independence and falls for her. This creates a love triangle that causes upheaval in Newland’s life.

As mentioned earlier, when I think “period costume romance”, Scorsese’s name doesn’t leap to mind. Of course, not all of his movies follow the focus on criminals and deviants that we find in the director’s most successful works, but still, we associate a certain motif with Scorsese, and Innocence doesn’t fit that notion.

Given the material at hand, Scorsese holds back his usual visual flash, as Innoence On one hand, I find it hard to criticize the superficial nature of Innocence because that seems to be its purpose. Scorsese concerns himself with manners and societal niceties above all else in what appears to be essentially an attempt to subtly satirize the genre.

This means we get a film with long, lingering shots of lavish food, clothes and décor that depict the opulence in which the characters live. We learn much more about what they eat and where they go than about the roles themselves, and that seems to be an intentional commentary on the shallowness of the participants.

To some degree, I appreciate that, but only to a limited extent. While I find myself intrigued with the film’s notions, the inherent emptiness on display makes it tough to endure all 138 minutes.

Almost 20 years before Innocence, Stanley Kubrick made Barry Lyndon, another period piece that concerned itself with social status to a large degree. However, unlike Innocence, Lyndon offered a real story, and while its lead was a nearly faceless cipher, the movie surrounded him with more three-dimensional personalities.

None of that occurs in Innocence, and again, this seems to be part of the satirical bent. During a movie obsessed with cultural conformity, we get Ellen, a character portrayed as rebellious and free-spirited.

But in truth, she clings to the same societal concerns as the others 99 percent of the time. It’s that one percent that makes her an “outcast”.

I appreciate this as deft commentary on the crushing sameness, as the portrait of Ellen as the world’s least rebellious non-conformist goes against expectations. Usually a story like this would paint Ellen as a brash, forward-thinking personality who doesn’t care about the judgments of others, but in reality, she frets over social standing almost as much as the others.

While I respect this and other stabs at insight, the end product leaves me cold because Scorsese succeeds a little too well. He accurately portrays thin-blooded characters without much real personality and that becomes a major drawback because the lack of depth or drama turns Innocence into a snoozer.

As I alluded earlier, Innocence gives us precious little substance onto which we can attach ourselves, and with 138 minutes of manners and opulence on display, the film turns into an endurance test. How many shots of lavish dinner tables can one man withstand?

All of this leaves Innocence as a tough film to rate. On one hand, I admire its attempts to deviate from the usual genre patterns and emphasize a slightly satirical bent. The movie attempts something unusual and fulfills its goals.

On the other hand, its success comes with a price, as the end result seems awfully boring. Innocence makes a point of its emphasis of style over substance, but that doesn’t make it entertaining or involving, so this winds up as a dull journey without much visceral payoff.

The Disc Grades: Picture A/ Audio B/ Bonus B

The Age of Innocence appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Taken from a new 4K transfer, Innocence looked glorious.

At all times, sharpness remained terrific. Nary a soft spot marred this tight, well-defined presentation.

No issues with moiré effects or jaggies materialized, and the image lacked edge haloes. Print flaws also failed to mar the film.

Colors favored warm, lush reds and golds. These came across with exquisite fidelity and appeared full and rich.

Blacks appeared deep and dark, while shadows demonstrated smooth, clear elements. I felt totally impressed by this stunning presentation.

Though not as memorable, the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack satisfied, with a soundscape heavy on music and ambience. The score filled all five channels, while effects tended toward environmental material that most came to life in crowds and other louder scenes. None of these dazzled, but they suited the story.

Audio quality worked well, with warm, concise speech. Music sounded lively and smooth, while effects appeared accurate and lacked distortion. This became a more than adequate mix for a low-key character drama.

Most of the disc’s extras revolve around modern-day chats, and we start with an Interview with Director Martin Scorsese. In this 23-minute, 24-second piece, Scorsese discusses the film’s development and influences, the adaptation of the novel and story/characters/themes, sets, locations and period details, photography and visuals.

While not a substitute for a commentary, Scorsese offers a pretty good overview of the project. Though I’d like a bit more depth and detail, the interview runs through the basics reasonably well.

During a 23-minute, one-second Interview with Co-Screenwriter Jay Cocks, we find info about research and the adaptation of the source, collaborating with Scorsese, the film’s use of narration, story/characters and cast/performances, and connected domains. Cocks provides a peppy and informative chat.

Next comes an Interview with Production Designer Dante Ferretti. This reels lasts 19 minutes, four seconds and involves Ferretti’s thoughts about collaborating with Scorsese and his work on Innocence. We learn a fair amount about the subject matter here.

Finally, we locate an Interview with Costume Designer Gabriella Pescucci. She participates in an 18-minute, 53-second program in which she looks at her preparation and research, specifics about her creations, and related material. Pescucci delves into the topics well and makes this another strong chat.

From 1993, Innocence and Experience provides a 25-minute, 27-second featurette that ran on HBO. It offers comments from Scorsese, Cocks, Ferretti, cinematographer Michael Ballhaus, composer Elmer Bernstein, producer Barbara De Fina, editor Thelma Schoonmaker, GoodFellas writer Nicholas Pileggi, and actors Daniel Day-Lewis, Richard E. Grant, Michelle Pfeiffer and Winona Ryder.

“Experience” examines story/characters/themes, Scorsese’s approach to the project, research and period details, cast and performances, costumes, the narration, music, the depiction of New York City, and contrasts with other Scorsese films. A few decent insights appear here – along with footage from the set – but this usually exists as a promotional effort without much depth.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we find a booklet. It mixes credits, photos and an essay from film critic Geoffrey O’Brien. The booklet finishes the set well.

In a shift from his usual MO, Martin Scorsese made a quiet period drama with The Age of Innocence, and he achieves his particular goals. Unfortunately, he also gives us a movie devoid of emotion or drama that drives a long road to nowhere. The Blu-ray delivers stunning picture quality along with good audio and a fairly informative collection of bonus materials. As much as I respect the film’s unusual aims, the end result bores too much of the time.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.6 Stars Number of Votes: 10
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