A crepuscular glow suffuses Andrew Wagner's intelligent, careful adaptation of a near-perfect novel by Brian Morton. One of Mr. Wagner's themes (and also Mr. Morton's) is the waning of that old, literary New York, the twilight of an idea of the city as a capital of the modern mind. Leonard Schiller, one of the main characters, is a retired teacher and all-but-forgotten novelist. Leonard, as embodied by Frank Langella, is a picture of old-fashioned decorum and steadfast dignity. Watching Mr. Langella's slow, gracious movement through "Starting Out in the Evening," I was reminded of Burt Lancaster in Luchino Visconti's adaptation of "The Leopard." In some ways the comparison is absurd, but both movies concern an old man who has outlasted the social order in which his life made sense. And what is so remarkable about Mr. Langella is that he seems to hold Leonard's intellectual cosmos inside him, to make it implicit in the man's every gesture and pause. Instead of nostalgia, "Starting Out in the Evening" offers a clear-eyed elegy for that world.
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