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on July 23, 2003
Though HENRY AND JUNE is primarily thought of as an erotic tale, I view it as the journey of self-discovery, and quest for fulfillment, of the four main characters: Anais Nin and her husband Hugo Guiler; Henry Miller and his wife June. Since the setting of this journey is 1930s Paris it is only logical that it would occur within an erotic context, but I advise the viewer to look beyond the steamy scenes and to search out the underlying themes.
After a few viewings of this movie, and readings of Anais Nin's diaries upon which this movie is based, what comes clear to me is that the characters are two halves of a whole person:
1) Anais Nin, the bored housewife who dreams of erotic adventure but feels trapped by, and is financially dependent upon, her husband; June Miller, the worldly woman who shifts between New York and Paris, has affairs with women, and occasionally works as a prostitute to support her husband.
2) Hugo Guiler (husband of Anais Nin), the workaholic banker who eventually comes to be financially responsible for all four protagonists; Henry Miller, the unemployed writer who has abdicated all conventional responsibilities and who is dependent upon the charity of his friends in order to survive.
It's a highly unconventional story to say the least, but that's exactly what makes it so interesting. Watch it with an open mind and you will see that there is more to the story than just sex. You will see four people on a quest for fulfillment and self-discovery, doing so in the context of sexually liberated 1930s Paris.
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on October 26, 2002
This 1990 film, directed by Philip Kaufman, is set in Paris in 1931. This was a time and place between the two world wars that attracted writers and artists to a bohemian lifestyle, a time of discarding old conventions and embracing experimentation. Here, Henry Miller, an American expatriate wrote his wildly erotic books, which were banned in the United States. And Anais Nin, known for her extensive diaries about her sensory experiences, began her literary career here. It's no wonder that the two of them would meet and couple. They were both married at the time and this film is about the complex relationships between Henry, Anais, and their respective mates, all searching of a kind of liberation which was endemic at the time.
Fred Ward plays Henry as a crass American with a Brooklyn accent that makes native New Yorkers, such as myself, cringe. He's all man though and it's easy to see why Anais Nin, played by the large-eyed petite Portuguese actress Maria de Medereiros, is attracted to him. Her own husband, Richard E. Grant, is attractive as well, and it's clear that they have a good romantic life together, but he's willing to look the other way at his wife's desire for others. When Miller's wife, June, played by Uma Thurman, a fiery androgynous mother-earth figure, comes on the scene, Anais Nin finds herself attracted to her as well. This sets the scene for some interesting complexities.
The video is two hours and 16 minutes long and I expected to watch only half of it one evening and the rest of it the next night. However, from the moment it started I was completely captured by the story and just had to watch it all the way through. The cinematography is so good that it was even nominated for an academy award, not for just the excellent views of Paris, but for the way the intimate scenes are done which manage to convey the relationships and the sensualities of the moment while avoiding being explicit. The focus is on the romance and the concepts rather than the physical acts. This kept the scenes erotic and it also moved the story forward. I was totally intrigued and kept wondering what would happen next.
The acting was uniformly good, but special note goes to Maria de Medeiros who played Anais Nin. As she works primarily in French films, I had never seen her before. She uses her huge dark eyes and facial expresses so well, that just a glance conveys layers of meaning. She's the focal point of every scene, in spite of the larger and more voluptuous Uma Thurman. And that's exactly what the director intended.
Some might find this film slow as the drama and tension is just about the people, not about world events or outside influence. However, it manages to create a time and a place and people that influenced the literary world as well as the mores of future generations.
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on April 12, 2001
One of the most underrated movies of the 90s. (It also marks a disappointing moment when the studio _could_ have backed up an NC-17 film not porn but meant for _real_ adults....but caved to puritanism instead). The top two reasons to see it are the performances of Maria de Medeiros as Anais Nin (it's almost a reincarnation) and Uma Thurman as June, two of the sexiest, most intelligent, passionate portrayals of women in recent cinema. Forget Thelma and Louise -- these two are a combustible pair. Fred Ward's performance as Henry Miller, too low-key, is pretty much lost in the shuffle, without any of the dynamic magnetism Miller had in spades. The movie explores the nature of desire, infatuation, obsession, and real love, and is pretty faithful to the actual events -- but some elements (such as the significance of June's puppet Count Bruga, made for her by her lesbian lover, Jean) are lost in the translation to the screen. For people bored to tears by the dichotomy of soulless porn on the one hand and Hollywood mush on the other, this is an intelligent and _sexy_ movie. Two lovely companion books are Anais Nin's diary "Henry and June," on which the movie was based, and Nin's and Miller's unexpurgated letters, "A Literate Passion." That title sums up both their lives and the movie based on them.
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on June 12, 2000
When I was in my mid-thirties, I read every book Anais Nin and Collette wrote and enjoyed them immensely. They were sophisticated women who led lives decidedly different and more daring than my careful existence, and writers who told the world about their affairs. Today, their writing may seem tame, (Colette wrote "Gigi") but it was shocking a few years ago. Nin's diaries are still pretty steamy.
The film, based on Nin's diaries, recalls the period when Anais (Anna eess') and her husband lived in Paris and became acquainted with Henry Miller and his wife June. Henry Miller may seem retro today, but there was a time when his steamy "Tropic of Cancer" was 'Banned in Boston' (according to my mother who had a copy hidden where my father wouldn't look). Miler was writing "The Tropic of Cancer" when he knew Nin.
I saw "Henry and June" in the theater several years ago and bought the DVD. This is a very well done film--and very beautiful--Paris in 1931. (I keep it stashed with "Sex, Lies, and Videotapes" which is tame by comparison.) I also wanted the film because Kevin Spacey is in it.
Maria de Mederios plays Nin to perfection. Richard Grant plays her husband who seems willing to go along with anything that will improve her writing. Fred Ward and Uma Thurman play Henry and June. Thurman's acting is better in this movie than in "Pulp Fiction." Spacey plays a writer who is part of the writer's network, and has some funny scenes.
The movie has a lot of sex on screen. There is so much sex I found myself laughing after awhile. The characters seem to live for the erotic. I say "seem to" because it is never clear to me how much of their behavior is driven by erotic desire and how much is driven by a desire to run back and write it down in their diaries and books. The story definitely contains a 'tongue-in-cheek' element.
Nin revealed the story to the world after all the characters were dead, so we'll never know how much was fact and how much fiction.
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on April 27, 2000
At least two movies of Philip Kaufman will stay in movie history, THE RIGHT STUFF and HENRY & JUNE. Produced by Philip Kaufman's son, co-written with his wife Rose Kaufman, HENRY & JUNE is a family affair. One could say that it is a european movie filmed in an american manner. Don't get me wrong, it's a compliment !
Fred Ward as Henry Miller, portuguese actress Maria de Medeiros as Anais Nin and Uma Thurman as the woman inspiring the two writers, Richard E. Grant and Kevin Spacey in smaller parts, the whole cast gives a superb performance. Don't expect pornographic scenes in HENRY & JUNE, sex is more suggested than showed. Philip Kaufman is interested in the relation between Henry and Anais and doesn't follow Henry Miller in his multiple adventures in Paris' brothels.
Henry Miller lives in a Paris that Federico Fellini could have created : enjoy this carnaval full of fellinian faces or Henry Miller's neighbors (you can recognize among them french clown Pierre Etaix in one of his last performances). Philip Kaufman has recreated the Paris which was the center of such movies as Marcel Carné's LES ENFANTS DU PARADIS or LE JOUR SE LEVE. Poetic realism was the name of this french movement of the 1935-1945 period.
Average extra-features but over the top audio and video transfers.
A DVD for your library.
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on June 8, 1999
A beautiful movie, its rich atmosphere almost makes it a period piece of Paris in the early 30s. One must be somewhat familiar with Nin's diaries to pick up on the signifance of some of the details. Much is left understated. Gorgeous soundtrack featuring popular of the time period and classical, including a rare, early version of Josephine Baker's "J'ai Deux Amours" that's much superior to the 50s version. Personally, I feel that the film "Hollywood-izes" the personas of Nin and Miller, making them too amiable. The rough edges of true personality and character that enabled their geniuses are absent in the movie. Brilliance is sometimes unsightly, and, therefore, excluded from the movie. Still, an entertaining, enjoyable, and erotic experience that comes highly recommended.
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on March 12, 2000
A very good looking film, with good acting. Unfortunately the movie loses momentum in the middle and never regains it. If you're familiar with Anais Nin and this period of her life, you'll enjoy the film a lot more. Kaufman really doesn't succeed in letting us get to know the characters very well. Frankly I thought the sexual scenes, which got the movie it's NC17 rating, could have been left out without any damage to the film. If you're expecting a film mainly about sex, you'll be disappointed.
It may be more style than substance, but it's done well enough that it's enjoyable. Kaufman creates a lovely vision of Paris in the '30s, and as mention, the acting is top notch.
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on November 1, 2000
This film deals with Anais Nin and her exploration of sexuality while living in France around 1930. We are much too jaded. Doing things that were forbidden adds a spice that we can no longer taste. For Anais, sex was an adventure. For us, it's something late-night comics make clumsy jokes about. What a shame! This film works for the same reason that wearing layers of clothes that you can slowly, sensually remove is a lot sexier than bland nudity. If this film is any indication, sex was a lot better before the sexual revolution. The relationships between her and Henry Miller and, of course, June were as screwed-up as ours, but somehow seemed a lot more interesting.
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on September 8, 2001
This movie is a good primer for reading Henry Miller's books... in 1991 I watched this movie and was drawn in by the charisma of Henry Miller's charcter played brilliantly by Fred Ward... I thought, who is the charasimatic one here? Henry Miller or Fred Ward... it turned out that (taking nothing away from Fred Ward), Henry Miller is as charasimatic (if not more so), than Fred Ward's portrayal here. Uma Therma plays the part well of June (or Mara), and Maria de Medeiros is a dead ringer for Anaïs Nin. That said, the movie is a little sluggish in pace, so it requires some patience to sit through, but it does have some great (redeming) moments...
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on March 31, 2002
Well the problem with this film is the source material and subject matter, Henry Miller is more a self celebrating clown than a great writer. Anais was perhaps the better writer and is still known for her literate blend of psychological nuance & erotica but the Henry/Anais/June love triangle has been a bit over celebrated, also you just can't help comparing this effort with Kaufmanns finer previous one. In his last movie Philip Kaufman chose a Milan Kundera novel, Kundera's a much better writer and Unbearable Lightness of Being is full of weightier themes. Henry and June, and Anais seem like trifling bohemes next to that magnificent trio of Franz, Sabina and Tereza. Still Kaufman proves he is adept at recreating interesting historical context whether it be 1960's Prague or 1930's Paris. Both films are favorites of mine but they are in such different categories. Unbearable Lightness of Being is in the classic category, and Henry and June is not. Maybe what is a little confusing about Henry and June is that we are asked to accept that this love triangle is important because it was the psychological substratum that shaped Henry the writer, but its only important if you accept the assumption(apparently held by Kaufman) that Henry's writing is important. A lot of people like Henry, I've read half a dozen of his books and enjoyed them but he's kind of the writing equivalent of a snake oil salesman. He's a bit of a con artist. And what he's selling is Henry Miller, each book is a new version of himself, no one has ever written so many words about themself, only Anais comes close in her diaries. If they had both become great writers or even significant ones the movie would make more sense. As it is the film excuses a lot of selfish action and self-centeredness and all in the cause of mediocre art. Still the film is fun as a celebration of bohemian Paris and all the festive and furtive rites and rituals that made up an atmosphere in which artistic values were cultivated. Kaufman may have done better to choose a greater artist.
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