HENRY AND JUNE
DIRECTOR: PHILLIP KAUFMAN
COUNTRY: USA 1991
CAST: Fred Ward as Henry Miller, Maria de Medeiros as Anais Nin, Uma Thurman as Miller's Wife, Richard E. Grant.
SUPER FEATURES: Script taken from Anais Nin's voluminous letters about Henry Miller, their affair, and literary work.
If you are not a literature person, skip this film. And if you don't care about what freedom meant at the time when prohibition went beyond your doors to tell you everything from behavior, to belief, then skip this film.
This film is about the anarchy of mind and body, which releases all tensions and ideas, into an area of free thinking, and creative mind/body exercises which in this case, became what today is considered literature. Anais Nin does not have her name in history of literature, as well placed as Henry Miller's does, but her ability to chronicle the life of those around her, and describe her own personal experiences, sexual, sensual, or otherwise, set her apart, as a writer who could easily rival the seasoned material of someone like LAWRENCE DURRELL (the ALEXANDRIA QUARTET) and D. L. LAWRENCE, whose work we have read in school. And more than likely, her position is not
established because she is a woman, in a world of publishers and artists that was, and still is, ruled by men whose intent still may be questioned.
This is not a film about Henry Miller, June and Anais. This is a film which spends its time lovingly exploring that which becomes the writer's muse, and as such, it is an excellent, and truly beautiful piece of work.
Henry Miller was depressed with the state of the affairs of art and literature in New York, in the twenties and thirties, and decided to move to Paris, to join a group of many writers and artists, and near the hot cultural center which produced some of the most important and influential artists of this century. It was the SURREALISTS under the manifesto published by Andre Bresson, who decided that art should be free of all constraints, which gave us the likes of Salvador Dali, Luis Bunuel, Jean Cocteau, and later the generation of Jean Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, Jean Genet, Samuel Beckett, and too many others to mention. And it was in the many sidewalk cafes and the many nights of sharing ideas, and visions, where many met, and entwined their life's work into a sweet mesh of creativity, which still burns brightly today.
In Paris, Henry Miller met Anais Nin, a happily married society woman, who had a penchant for diary writings. Henry enticed her to create a bit of erotic literature. Their affairs became one of true erotic adventures, which added a different dimension to Anais' life and marriage, while also helping Henry forget the ghosts of a failed marriage, and a failed writer, which he considered himself to be until the fifties, when his writings begun to be noticed full scale.
Phillip Kaufman's film of this period, and its development on two literary persons, really expresses the best and the worst of the scene. The best was the excitement of the affairs, and the resulting little short story, or set of lines in the diary. The worst was that there wasn't a place where these things could be published. The happy medium was that it could be read out loud and enjoyed in a sidewalk cafe, and not be torn down to shreds by a literary critic, before it was helped by another writer.
Personally, I have never been a great fan of Henry Miller. But he is a very clever, and well thought out writer, who happens to know what he is writing about. In other words he is not lost in his ideas, and his works are not a set of organized ideas and thoughts. His works are the lives of many, and their anatomical ways in every sense. Anais Nin, I have just recently read, and while it is nice, it has not aged well. Victorian Literature, and its indecent companion pornographic genre, had tested the erotic space, but had not affected anything new. Anais Nin did, by interjecting the erotic feeling of thought behind the actual happening in a descriptive mode which has a sleepy side to it, if not a dreamy sensuality to it. Next to much unpolished garbage in film, television and literature today, it is excellent stuff. By itself, it pales a little, and has a sort of eighteen year old diary feel to it. The film does too. Compared to the blatantly distasteful stuff one sees in many pop artists these days, Anais Nin is fabulous, in that the women and men in her works are not toys, they have feelings, and they live those feelings, from Henry, to June, to any lover that Anais spends her time with. Madonna's expressions are that of a lack of appreciation for a good person, and a desire to hurt, or protect the hurt person, who no longer looks for redemption on self, but by preying on others weaknesses.
THIS IS A MAGNIFICENT FILM.
THERE AREN'T VERY MANY FILMS THAT DEPICT THE HIGHS AND LOWS OF A CREATIVE ARTIST, AND HOW THEY FUNCTION.
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