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Martin Scorsese on the Sights and Sounds of Old-World New York

With The Age of Innocence (1993), a swooning and sumptuous adaptation of Edith Wharton’s classic 1920 novel, director Martin Scorsese returned to his frequent on-screen stomping ground of New York, this time setting his sights on a milieu far removed from the street-level grit of Taxi Driver or Raging Bull: the high society of Gilded Age Manhattan. By turns sharply satirical and heartbreakingly tragic, Scorsese’s romance follows Newland Archer (Daniel Day-Lewis)—an upstanding attorney engaged to a respectable socialite (Winona Ryder) but increasingly drawn to her scandal-plagued cousin (Michelle Pfeiffer)—as his passions bring him up against the ironclad codes of his elite world. One of the most remarkable aspects of the film, which won an Oscar for Gabriella Pescucci’s breathtaking costumes, is its fine-grained evocation of the 1870s. In the above clip, taken from a supplemental piece on our brand-new edition of The Age of Innocence, Scorsese talks with critic Kent Jones about some of the techniques that helped bring the film’s rarefied atmosphere to life, including a close attention to the cast’s pronunciation, the weaving in of Wharton’s lush language through Joanne Woodward’s voice-over, and the graceful rhythm of the camera work.

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