Review: ‘Henry & June’

Henry & June, will be considered liberating by some and obscene by others. The lovemaking scenes in his previous film, The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988), proved that director Philip Kaufman was perhaps the best director to handle the story of the long-secret, passionate affair between writers Henry Miller and Anais Nin in Paris in 1931-32.

Henry & June, will be considered liberating by some and obscene by others. The lovemaking scenes in his previous film, The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988), proved that director Philip Kaufman was perhaps the best director to handle the story of the long-secret, passionate affair between writers Henry Miller and Anais Nin in Paris in 1931-32.

Pic’s title, also the title of the Nin book, is actually a misnomer. This is the story of Henry and Anais; June, playing a marginal role, is offscreen much of the time.

The film opens with Anais and her banker husband, Hugo, establishing themselves in Paris. It quickly becomes clear that, although fond of the rather stuffy Hugo, Anais, who keeps a secret diary, isn’t telling him everything, and is eager to experience the kind of things she imagines in her erotic dreams. Miller’s arrival is the catalyst.

Anais is also attracted to Miller’s wife, June, who visits occasionally from America, and dreams of erotic experiences in which June assumes the male role.

In its depiction of Depression Paris and sexual candor, Henry & June succeeds. The central performances of Fred Ward, as the cynical, life-loving Miller, and Maria de Medeiros, as the beautiful, insatiable Anais, splendidly fulfill the director’s vision.

Pic is less successful in gaining audience sympathy for these hedonists. Also, the character of June (Uma Thurman) is ill-defined.

1990: Nomination: Best Cinematography

Henry & June

Production

Universal/Walrus. Dir Philip Kaufman; Producer Peter Kaufman; Screenplay Rose Kaufman, Philip Kaufman; Camera Philippe Rousselot; Editor Vivien Hillgrove, William S. Scharf, Dede Allen Art Dir Guy-Claude Francois

Crew

(Color) Available on VHS, DVD. Extract of a review from 1990. Running time: 136 MIN.

With

Fred Ward Uma Thurman Maria de Medeiros Richard E. Grant Kevin Spacey Jean-Philippe Ecoffey

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