Review by Vincent Canby, The New York Times

Here’s a final review of Scorcese’s movie:  a sensible, middle-of-the-road perspective by Vincent Canby in The New York Times. Canby was senior film critic at the Times from 1969 to 1993, after which he became the paper’s theater reviewer.  Canby’s review of The Age of Innocence doesn’t bring startling new insights to the film, but I think he articulates a balanced assessment that’s useful in its own right.

Vincent Canby Review, NYTimes, Sept 1993


From the obituary in The Guardian (UK), 17 October 2000:
Vincent Canby, who has died of cancer aged 76, was one of the most powerful film critics in America… What Canby thought about a film was often regarded as the received wisdom, not to be counteracted by anyone save Pauline Kael, of the New Yorker magazine.

The briefest blurb from Pauline Kael about the movie

When I starPauline Kael Conversations Thumbnailted paying serious attention to movies, the Voice of the Art for me (as for many others) was Pauline Kael, movie critic of The New Yorker.  She stopped working for the magazine in 1991, and so just missed being called upon to review The Age of Innocence, released in 1993. But Kael wrote about Scorcese so often (and so positively) that I’ve been looking for some comments she might have made about the movie, in print or interview.  So far, I have turned up only one reference: a brief exchange in a book, Conversations with Pauline Kael.  During a 1994 discussion with Evelyn Renold, we find the following:

Q:    I know you weren’t a fan of Scorsese’s Age of Innocence

PK: It was an honest effort, but wrong-headed. I think nothing could be as foreign to his sensibility as Edith Wharton. I mean, he didn’t seem to share her revulsion at those moneyed, vulgar people. He made the dinner look good.

From: Conversations with Pauline Kael edited by Will Brantley, University Press of Mississippi, Jackson, 1996.

Scorsese on his “The Age of Innocence” (1993)

Age of Innocence DVD coverShould we decide to view Martin Scorsese’s excellent film together, or should anyone chose to look at it separately, a 1993 interview with the director by critic Roger Ebert will provide some interesting insights.  Ebert first met Scorsese in 1967 when they were students together, so their discussion is relaxed and chatty as well as informative.

While I find that the movie exhibits some of the usual problems with screen adaptations, Scorsese embraces Wharton’s writing with such sensitivity and understanding that the film is often praised as one of the most successful unions of written and visual language even created.

Ebert Interviews Scorcese (1993)

NY Review of Books essays on Wharton

I’ve found several interesting articles about Edith Wharton and The Age of Innocence in The New York Review of Books archive.  I’m posting PDFs of three:

In 1993, John Updike wrote an essay, “Archer’s Way,” that makes a number of interesting points about The Age of Innocence, and then culminates in a discussion of Proust’s influence on Wharton:

Proust and Wharton, though they lived but blocks apart and had a number of friends (including André Gide and Walter Berry) in common, never met; but she was among the early enthusiasts for Swann’s Way, which came out in 1913.

Louis Auchincloss‘s review, Good Housekeeping, comments on an early work of feminist criticism –  a book by Judith Fryer (former UMass English professor) that discusses how Edith Wharton and Willa Cather created spaces for their women characters to inhabitPublished in 1986, the review is a bit of a period piece, as Auchincloss’s language reflects a liberal male intellectual of the 1980’s trying to cope with new voices in the academic landscape.  But the comparisons he cites between Wharton and Cather might be of particular interest for us.

Edmund White wrote a long review of a major biography, Edith Wharton by Hermione Lee, published in 2007.  The House of Edith discusses how Wharton’s own experiences affected her novels – in particular, how reflections on her own terrible marriage can be found in The Age of Innocence.  The essay is longer than the others I’m posting as it contains a good deal of biographical detail.  (Eight pages.)

John Updike essay, Archer’s Way (1993)

Louis Auchincloss reviews Judith Fryer’s Felicitous Space: The Imaginative Structures of Edith Wharton and Willa Cather (1986)

Edmund White, The House of Edith – review of Lee’s biography of Wharton (2007)