The Europeans: I’m Not Looking for a New England, by David Bax

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  1. Barry Miller says:

    There is no finer invocation of a 19th century New England autumn in all of American cinematic history. Apparently loved by President Jimmy Carter in the troubled and waning days of his Administration, this is the only Ivory-Merchant production that has a kind of potent and compelling atmospheric strength beyond any of their other later and more-acclaimed period productions of the 1980’s and 1990’s, especially since it was one of James Ivory’s earliest directorial efforts. 1850’s autumnal Boston IS the main character, where these sad and pathetically repressed characters are no different than the dying leaves scattering through the pastoral landscapes; lost stick figures in nature’s passing cycle from summer’s fire into winter’s sleep, with only the artist and his in-love muse aware of it’s transitory beauty, and therefore desperate to be alive to life itself.

    Originally released in late October and early November of 1979, if one wishes to perceive it as such, it can actually be read as a surreal historical allegory for the waning sexual and artistic passions of the late 1970’s, which was the era in which it was filmed, and the shadowy and soon-to-be conservative religious encroachments of the dawning Reagan era of the early 1980’s.

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