Friday, 20 March 2009

Renaissance,Another Public Enemey, Age of Innocence and Martin Scoresese

The time is approaching when I should view the Martin Scorsese films in the same dimension as those of Ingmar Bergman, although he satisfies a different range of interests and previous experience. Last night I enjoyed The Age of Innocence 1993 and it was only this morning after reading the information on his dedicated site and on the IMDB database that I appreciated the depth and breath of his contribution to the development of the essentially American cinema and that I have seen the majority of his films. There was Mean Streets 1973, Alice doesn't live here anymore 1974 before he rose to international fame with Taxi Driver 1976. The Last Waltz 1978 and then Raging Bull 1980, and The Last temptation of Christ 1988 which came after the Colour of Money 1986. Goodfellas 1990 and Cape Fear 1991 were made before the Age of Innocence and then Casino 1995 and my personal favourite where I have the DVD Kundun 1997 about Tibet and the Dali Lama and then the Gangs of New York, the film I have liked least, and the Aviator 2004 which I enjoyed. There are several others of his 45 feature films and associated enterprises as Director which I think I have also experienced but will need to do further research and some viewing. There are four projects completed, in post production and announced yet to come,In addition there are 31 Producer Credits, 24 acting performances, 13 writing a handful of others plus Editing work including the 25 anniversary edition of Woodstock, and some other film work including photographer. Before saying something more about the Age of Innocence, there have been two DVD's to comment further, one I thoroughly enjoyed and consider a good film, although it received mixed critical attention and the other while I disliked but it likely to become a cult landmark development.

I begin with Renaissance, a film which you like or hate there is no grey, literally because this is a film where everything is a mixture of black and white and no grey scale. Once you adjust to the novelty the result is irritating and pointless. Its second claim to originality is the way real actors are required to perform with electronic camera points which enable their real movement to be converted into animations which in my judgement is a waste of time. The fact that animation films in general are given voice-overs by recognisable established actors has never impressed me and defeats the purpose which is to create a different type of film. By all means bring comic book and children's story adventures to life using the latest techniques but it is important they retain their form and uniqueness, something which Sin City was able to do, in that the story engaged and the format enriched rather than took over the film. I suspect others will have a different viewpoint.

Another Public Enemy is a Korean film made in 2005 and is 2 hours and 28 minute mixture of ex classmates with a score to settle, and a public prosecutor uncovering corruption which goes to the top of government, media and the established power structure. The task of the ex classmate public prosecutor follows a well trodden route, under pressure from superiors, doubted by subordinates, yet commanding their loyalties, despite unconventional methods, because he leads from the front, taken of the case, then reinstated and finally getting his man who has arranged the deaths of his facility and anyone else stopping his quest for power, wealth and escape beyond the reach of the law. I might try and watch the original production, Public Enemy, sometime, someday.

It is a different reaction to the Bourne Trilogy, the first two seen in theatre and the third now on general release, and the first being watched on TV. It remains the kind of film where much to the detail is not remembered after one viewing by the likes of me, but various images and emotional responses are. Again there are stock features, a man without memory, finds that he is an assassin, but you know immediately that he really is a good guy and was never in control of what he did, under the control of bad guys who work for the good guys. Because of fate there is a good girl who become involved in such a way that reinforces that the action hero is really a hero when he is prepared to sacrifice himself to ensure that the girl can live freely. The film ends on a Greek Island. Oh to be young again and off to an Island of Greece. I will be able to return when the second film is shown again on Tuesday. Unfortunately I remember the reality of what then happens, and which brings me to the Age of Innocence, and which in turn is even better than the works of Merchant Ivory. A wife in the wrong marriage escapes to her relatives in New York City in the 1870's only to find that "society" is conventional with appearance being everything and any hint of impropriety leads immediately to social ostracism and ruin. She the woman Countess Ellen Olenska Michelle Pfeifer who is assigned a young corporate/family lawyer to advise her on what is best which does not involve divorce and where if she cooperates the family will; accept and support her in society.

He, Newland Archer, Daniel Day Lewis is engaged to her cousin May played by Winona Ryder who is the perfection of good manners and appearances but when he presses for the marriage to be brought forward, she is suspicious that she is second best to a greater passion unaware, until it is too late, that it is an unconsummated passion, sizzling in its refined innocence.. It is no surprise to learn that Mary Wharton's novel won the Pulitzer prize 1920 after the youth of European and North American nations slaughtered each other pointlessly over four years.

There are two ways of viewing this film. One is that of heroic doing what is right even if means individual lives are sacrificed for some ideal and greater good. The other is the waste, the pain, the suffering when a mutual passion is rejected. It is very much my subject, with the added layers of misunderstanding and communication failures. The film is sumptuous in conveying the mood, with Bernstein adding the music and are a host of class actors adding to its strength. Unlike my characters Wharton and Scorsese have given us two people who communicate and understand at every possible level, and that is the magnificent tragedy for them but also a message of support and hope for all those who bravely endure in silence and without recognition.

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