2:48 AM |
An Operatic Introduction to 1870s New York Society in Martin Scorsese's The Age of Innocence (1993)
My favourite Martin Scorsese film -- perhaps one of his underrated best -- is The Age of Innocence (1993). I love it largely because it delivers three of the director's recurring themes -- [a] New York, [b] societal violence, and [c] redemption and sacrifice -- but delivers them in unusual ways: [a] New York here is upper crust 1870s society, [b] the violence is subtle but no less bloody, and is sharply delivered with a dagger encrusted with etiquette and decorum, and [c] the redemption for the protagonist is finally offered but is brushed away in the name of further sacrifice. I also love the film for its novelistic arc, which is to be expected as it is faithful to the Edith Wharton novel it adapts. I had to rip for YouTube my favourite part of the film: the second opening sequence, which Joanne Woodward begins to narrate. As it glides between opera and subsequent opera ball, the sequence gives us a glimpse into the ensuing drama and also the dynamics with which high society of that gilded age operated. It is, for the sum of all its effects, an exquisite balancing act of dramatization and exposition that in the hands of a cinema master proves to be delicious filmmaking.