Golden Door ***
Directed by Emanuele Crialese
Written by Emanuele Crialese
Charlotte Gainsbourg as Lucy Reed
Vincenzo Amato as Salvatore Mancuso
Aurora Quattrocchi as Fortunato Mancuso
Francesco Casisa as Angelo Mancuso
Filippo Pucillo as Pietro Mancuso
Frederica De Cola as Rita D'Agostini
Isabella Ragonese as Rosa Napolitano
Vincent Schiavello as Don Luigi
120 Minutes(Rated PG-13 for brief graphic nudity.)
Note-Even though this is rated PG-13, I am quite surprised at the lenient nature of the MPAA in this situation. First of all this is an art films which is usually a prime target. And the content that they describe at Brief Graphic Nudity is artistic-I had no problem with it-but it is full frontal nudity for both male and females. I am somewhat happy that they did not limit the audience to this very well done film, as it should be seen.
"Golden Door" is more like an experience than a movie. I did not really know what it is was about when I went into the theatre, and for a 10:oopm showing I was unusually enthralled and completely involved in what was going on. But while watching this I actually felt like an Italian immigrant going through the motions of being a United States resident. And I enjoyed the little dialogue, the constant observation, the little background, and most of all the lack of any scenes showing the assimilation of the main characters into American society. This is a film about coming to America and not living in America, and at that "Golden Door" remains true.
"Golden Door" begins in Italy where we meet the Mancuso family, who are preparing to go off to America. At this point I did not follow what was happening. Perhaps I needed a little more to base off of or a little bit of background knowledge of the story. The family is a farmer's family, and a very poor one at that. But they manage to get on the boat on the way to America. On the boat they come into contact with Lucy Reed, an Englishwoman whose hopeful fiancee never showed up and now she needs a man to marry to get her into America. While the whole Mancuso family is intrigued by Lucy, it is the patriarch Salvatore who really wants her for himself, and when she asks to marry him to get into America he is pleased. Eventually the boat makes it to the United States offices where the second half begins, and the Italians and Lucy learn that it may be more difficult to get into the States than they imagined.
The marriage element is important to order to get a completely well rounded journey of what it was like to come into America. Marriage was another element involved for the immigrants, and by focusing the story on that in the second half really does give us a view at the many different obstacles these people went through. There is more physical work and shots of silence throughout the film, but I am sure this just highlights the experience as I can't imagine the immigrants acting jovial and excited-mostly fear or nervousness. I was expecting more of Charlotte Gainsbourg, a beautiful young French actress from "Science of Sleep" and "Lemming", although it is clear that the true heart of the film is from Vincenzo Amato's Salvatore. His final speech at the end about the place that the US officials have over the future of the Italians is perfectly delivered, even though the final shot of the immigrants in metaphorical water of rebirth is not. The finale is a bit misplaced, and if you really want to walk away with a powerful spell from the film just walk away right after the speech I mention above. Afterwards I had a newfound appreciate for the Italian immigrants, and if I date back a little bit I have family that probably went through similar situations. "Golden Door" is effective because it really does take us step by step into the process, and while it may not be entertaining enough for a lot of people to follow, it certainly is without a doubt extremely interesting to sit through.
And one a side note, I really do have to mention Vincent Schiavello, who passed away about two years ago. With only a small role in "Golden Door" it is just amazing how many films he has done. In his career he had almost 200 parts, and the fact that it is two years after his death and I have still seeing him in films just goes to show that he never did stop. And he is quite a talent that never really did get off the launch pad, but had his own little fan base regardless.