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Golden Door

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Emanuele Crialese's beautifully filmed drama about Italian immigrants at the turn of the century draws its power both from its grubby naturalism and its shimmery dreamlike state. Widower Salvatore (Vincenzo Amato), lured by novelty postcards showing the house-sized produce of the New World, leaves his rocky farm, ragtag family in tow, for America. It's an uncomfortable and terrifying journey; from dock to steerage, Crialese shoots tight, putting us in the claustrophobia and panic of the huddled masses. But amidst the dirt and confusion Salvatore meets a mysterious and elegant Englishwoman (the swan-necked Charlotte Gainsbourg), and the pair form a hasty alliance. Golden Door hardly proffers the traditionally romantic view of immigration: Clouds deny the anxious travelers the quintessential view of New York's harbor, and their welcome is a series of humiliating bureaucracies at Ellis Island. Nonetheless, there's something winsome about Crialese's portrayal, even as his gently surreal final scene finds our immigrants literally struggling to stay afloat in their realized dream. In Italian, with subtitles.

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