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(2006)

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8/10
Brilliant Work!... again
Carlos Martinez Escalona6 October 2006
Emanuele Crialese did a fantastic job with one of those films that linger in the back of your mind for years. It was Respiro (see comments and synopsis here in IMDb).

Now, carrying the magnificent young talents he had for the first time on screen then, he takes the audience into a dark void. A literal plunge into dangerous waters. The subject is migration. In this case, from Italy to the New World (the name of the film). A big deal calling it for its American release "The Golden Door".

The story of a family that leaves everything and risks the rest -that is, their lives, for a dream.

I hate to spoil the show telling the story, so I'll dwell a bit in the work Crialese and all his team did so brilliantly.

First of all, choosing to stick to what he knows: direct sound as much as possible. This means, the whole film. The textures, the pain, the nuances of reality are always mingled with the smells, the heat or the cold, the sweat and the blood, life and death, as vibrantly as it is in real life.

The squeaks of bent metal and grinding wood, the infamous drone of the wind and the ominous sounds of big engines and ship horns are among the points that make this film so involving.

Cinematography is in the hands of a French couturier. The symbolism of light is present from the very first shot (again, almost the very first shot from Respiro) and pervades throughout the film with intimacy and a terrible sense of desperation. The subdued tones and the very gray and grim depictions of people suffering the cramped and filthy boat they sail to hope is mesmerising.

Light is used sparsely, almost to discover every character in the dark. The beauty of every shot, and every scene is accentuated by the period costumes and the perfectly selected physical features of the actors.

Again, as he usually does, Vincenzo Amato is definitely on his own. He plays the father of two sons (the same actors who were fifteen and twelve and now are nineteen and sixteen) with all the power he always conveys to his very complex characters.

Charlotte Gainsbourg is so-so. I guess she's never achieved again the perfection she reached in The Cement Garden and in her very first film: L'Effrontée.

Maybe it's just that she seems a bit awkward in her role.

The locations and sets are harsh and compelling, almost playing a character on their own.

Maybe the most remarkable character is the one played by Filippo Pucillo, the mute younger son. The contrast here with his first role is complete. Then, he played a supercharged kid that was as relentless as anything around him. Now, his character is all expression. And just that: no words at all. His eyes tell the whole story with sublime power.

Maybe this is one of those films that will not be very well received in the States. It's absolutely Italian in everything. It's so Italian that most of the time, the language is one of the many dialects that is much older than Italian itself. In the USA this film may be a bit too much for Americans because of the subject. But anyone who remembers the story of their families when they arrived in the States, will see this films with awe.

And, again, the minimalism that goes hand in hand with Crialese's ideas is back with a closing scene in the water. Only this time it goes from underwater photography to aerial.

All in all, another great and very well told story from this filmmaker that only this year (2006) has collected 6 prizes and was nominated for the Golden Lion. Not a small deed!
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9/10
A magical, mystery tour
Howard Schumann25 June 2007
Enhanced by the expressive cinematography of Agnes Godard (Beau Travail), Golden Door is a visually striking tone poem that follows the journey of a peasant family from their primitive home in Sicily to Ellis Island in New York at the turn of the century. It is a surreal, enigmatic, often strange, but ultimately deeply rewarding experience. Interweaving dreamlike and symbolic imagery with gritty realism, the latest film by Emanuele Crialese (Respiro) is like an impressionistic painting - a cinematic artist's rendering of what the immigration process may have been like for our parents and grandparents. Crialese's "magical, mystery tour" came about as a result of his visit to the museum on Ellis Island, the looks on the faces of the immigrants depicted in photographs he saw, and his research into the harsh policies and procedures used during the admission of immigrants.

Guided by letters he read of immigrants sent to relatives who remained at home, Crialese identifies with those impoverished immigrants who were able to see the positive side of things beyond their ordeal. To Salvatore Mancuso (Vincenzo Amato) and his older son Angelo (Francesco Casisa), America is a distant dream that they know nothing about. After climbing a rocky mountain to pray to the saints for a sign, they are rewarded when they are shown post cards by Salvatore's younger son, Pietro (Filippo Pucillo), a deaf mute, that depict the new world as a land where they can bathe in rivers of milk, sit under a money tree, or harvest giant onions and carrots.

After disposing of their animals in exchange for shoes and suits, Salvatore, his two sons, and his elderly mother Fortunata (Aurora Quattrocchi) set out on their adventure with more hope than trepidation but the equation soon shifts the other way. As they board the boat and settle into their crowded third-class steerage compartments, the most-talked about scene in the film takes place. Using an overhead camera that shows masses of people standing, as the ship pulls away, the frame is divided into those aboard the ship and those waving goodbye from the dock and the way they are separated implies they are being torn asunder from everything familiar.

Aboard the ship is a mysterious English woman named Lucy (Charlotte Gainsbourg). Crialese does not reveal her past or the reason she is traveling to America but she seems to stand for the onset of the modern world they are entering. Though they eye each other cautiously, Lucy becomes interested in Salvatore and asks him to marry her in order to allow her to enter the country. The voyage is treacherous with a violent storm buffeting the ship. Shot in almost complete darkness, passengers in steerage are tossed against the side of the boat and, afterward, bodies lie tangled and twisted on the floor as if in a macabre Totentanz. The rite of passage through immigration processing at Ellis Island does not become any easier and Crialese attacks the way illiterate peasants, in the name of preserving "civilized" society, are forced to put puzzles together, perform mathematical tasks, and undergo humiliating medical examinations to prove they are "fit".

A marriage brokering ceremony feels like an auction block and the young women look despondent when they are matched with overweight middle-aged men. This is the only way they can enter the "Golden Door", however, since single women are rejected unless they have partners, ostensibly to prevent the threat of prostitution. Through the fog the immigrant's can barely see the land of milk and honey and there is no Statue of Liberty asking for the tired and the poor, the humbled masses yearning to breathe free. In their imagination, however, the river is still flowing, waiting for them to jump in. Though the ending is ambiguous and one door opens on to a blank wall, another door symbolizes a rebirth of the soul and the passage we must all take from the old world to the new.
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10/10
'I lift my lamp beside the golden door': A Touching Tribute to Immigrants
gradyharp23 June 2007
THE GOLDEN DOOR (NUOVOMONDO) is for this viewer the finest film of the year to date. It is a masterpiece of concept, writing, directing, acting and cinematography. More importantly, this radiantly beautiful film is a much needed reflective mirror for us to view the history of immigration of 'foreigners' into America at a time when the very mention of the word 'borders' is a political fuse. Writer/director Emanuele Crialese has given us not only a deeply moving story, he has also provided a touchstone for viewers to re-visit the history of each of our origins: with the exception of the Native Americans, we all entered America as 'foreigners' at some point in our histories, and it is humbling to view this film with that fact in mind.

The film opens in turn of the century Sicily as poverty stricken widower Salvatore Mancuso (Vincenzo Amato) and his brother Angelo (Francesco Casisa) climb a rocky hill to present their tokens to the cross to ask for a sign as to whether they should continue to struggle for existence on the island or go to America, the land of dreams. Mancuso's deaf mute son Pietro (Filippo Pucillo) runs to the top of the hill with postcards he has found with images of America (money growing on trees, fruits and vegetables larger than people, etc), and Salvatore accepts this as the sign that he should move his family to America. After convincing his reluctant mother Fortunata (Aurora Quattrocchi) and his sisters Rita (Federica De Cola) and Rosa (Isabella Ragonese) to make the trip, he sells his only possessions (two donkeys, goats, and rabbits) and the man with the boat arranges their trip, giving the family shoes, appropriate clothing, and instructions to board an ocean liner as third class passengers. As the Mancuso family prepares to board they are asked for a photograph, and as they pose behind a painted set, an Englishwoman Lucy/Luce (Charlotte Gainsbourg) walks into the photo as though she were part of this peasant family. Lucy cannot board the boat for America without male escort.

The voyage begins and Luce in her gentle way identifies with the Mancuso family, finally solidifying her safe passage by proposing to Salvatore to marry her 'for convenience, not for love' when they arrive in America. Through a violent storm and living conditions that are appalling poor, the multitude of third class passengers survive, bond, and eventually arrive at Ellis Island, believing their dream of America has been fulfilled. But everyone must pass harsh physical tests, de-lousing, and even intelligence testing to determine if they can enter America: the officials let them know that America does not want genetically inferior people entering the new world! Each woman must be selected by a man to marry on Ellis Island before they are allowed admission. The manner in which the Mancuso family remains united until a somewhat surprising ending is the closing of the tale.

Few of us understand the strict rules and harsh treatment immigrants face (or at least faced at the turn of the century) on Ellis Island, and if we do we have elected to submerge that information. THE GOLDEN DOOR presents the case for immigrants' struggles in a manner that not only touches our hearts but also challenges our acceptance of current immigration legislation. But all political issues aside, THE GOLDEN DOOR is first and foremost a film of enormous beauty, exquisite photography, deeply felt performances by a huge cast, and a very sensitively written and directed story. The is a film that deserves wide distribution, a movie that is a must see for everyone. Highly recommended. Grady Harp
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8/10
"The Golden Door" personalizes the immigrant experience
Red-12512 August 2007
"Nuovomondo (2006)" (shown in the U.S. as "The Golden Door") was written and directed by Emanuele Crialese. This film is different--and, I think, better--than most movies about impoverished people who leave Europe and come to the United States.

The film begins with scenes in a poor, rural region of Sicily. We always hear that Sicily is a rocky island, but you won't really understand the implications of that phrase until you see the first half-hour of "The Golden Door."

The middle section of the film is devoted to the long voyage to the U.S. Most immigration films show us ten minutes of people in the third-class section becoming seasick, and then show us the Statue of Liberty. Not this movie--we get a sense for life below decks, and it isn't charming. (We never actually see the Statue of Liberty, either.)

Finally, the typical movie will give us another ten minutes of Ellis Island, and then the immigrants are walking through New York's Lower East Side. Not here--the Ellis Island experience occupies about one-third of the footage.

Vincenzo Amato is outstanding as Salvatore Mancuso, who is bringing his two sons and his mother to the new world. Charlotte Gainsbourg is equally good as Lucy Reed, a mysterious Englishwoman who also speaks fluent Italian.

There are some strange touches in the movie, especially the sound track with songs by Nina Simone. There must be some symbolism there, but I couldn't make sense of it.

Another reviewer has already pointed out that this film will do better viewed in a theater rather than on DVD. Still, large screen or small screen, it's worth seeking out.
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10/10
Masterful direction of impressionistic look at emigration by Crialese
tnrcooper16 July 2007
This film is an impressionistic, poetic take on the immigrant experience, a reflective look at the turmoil and fear which might be associated with emigrating. These are aspects not often considered in movies about emigration to America in particular and to to any country more generally and the film vividly and convincingly depicts the nervousness and enthusiasm, if ignorance, that poor, illiterate Sicilian immigrants have in anticipation of their emigration to the United States.

They have some fantastic, unrealistic notions about the United States which are disseminated on the trip over. One is that the rivers run with milk, an image which is depicted in the movie to poetic, impressionistic effect. The film is devoid of sound and the silence seems to reflect the uneasiness of the ignorance the locals have about life in America, or if not ignorance of it, a vision significantly colored with superstition and fantasy.

That said, the movie depicts with jolting realism, the boat ride to the United States and the intake process which arrivals at Ellis Island had to undergo. The boat ride is imagined as rather dull which surely it was much of the time. The quarters in which the incoming residents sleep is depicted as extremely crowded with beds spaced four or five inches from one another and lacking much light, which it was surely the case below deck.

Again, the film is not supplemented with undue music or excessively bright lighting and the effect is to create a fairly realistic imagining of what it was truly like for people emigrating to the United States. The villagers may not be worldly, but they are quite reasonable, and the interaction with the eldest of the emigrants, Fortunata (Aurora Quattrocchi) with the immigration officer who insists on particular results, are quite bittersweet inasmuch as they are not diluted or softened for the benefit of a syrupy conclusion and one sees the melding of the realism of Sicily with the extensive regulations which guide life in the United States.

The immigrants and their story are very interesting and the combination of cold-eyed realism and the magical fantasy of peoples' imaginations make for a persuasive vision of the beliefs held by Sicilians, or any people, with little formal education moving to the United States. The acting is similarly barebones; it is not at all demonstrative or showy, but seems the more realistic for it. That said, all the main performers, in particular Salvatore Mancuso (Vincenzo Amato), the clear leader of the group is excellent. While never smiling, his character's actions speak much louder and it is clear that (thankfully) the other members of the group, his two sons and the above mentioned elder Fortunata, the boys' grandmother, have faith in his leadership abilities and respect his clear leadership. Amato imbues his character with great decency and forthrightness and it is a testament to his abilities that his character appears so capable and confident while his character betrays very little emotion.

One oddness of the film is a chance encounter with a mysterious Englishwoman (the excellent and fittingly mysterious Charlotte Gainsbourg) who speaks Italian and, during the entire film, we wonder why she is going to the United States or what connection she has to the otherwise unanimously Sicilian emigrant group. At the end, this is finally revealed and the revelation is done typically realistically and does not seem particularly melodramatic or showy.

The film is directed by Emmanuel Crialese who has a firm grasp on the realistic, if sometimes superstitious world view his characters inhabit and presents it competently and confidently. It is in fact fantastically confident given how awkwardly the realism and superstition might have combined in the film. It is a worthy examination of the immigrant experience.
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9/10
Nativity!
Kalapani4 October 2006
This is Christmas time! A nativity in terms of rebirth, or at least this is what can be hoped regarding the Italian cinema. It was something like 30-40 years that the Italian cinema didn't craft an art piece of this size. This is an absolute contemporary film that can be also regarded at the same level of quality as the Italian masterpieces of the past, needless to quote any name. And finally this is also a big production for Italian standards of the time. In this movie there is a rare balance of different elements, all of them understandable and enjoyable at different levels of fruition. Real poetry, real humor, real tenderness, real drama, real beauty. No rhetoric, no easy surreal shortcuts, no typical touristic Tornatore-like picturing, no over acting, no director autoreferentialism. There is also a cool use of two heartbreaking Nina Simone's songs, whose music, I reckon has never been used in a proper way for a score. So if this will not be a real reviveing for the Italian cinema it is an extraordinary evolution for Emanuele Crialese after his 'Respiro' another definitive beautiful film. 'Nuovomondo' is not to be missed, it is that kind of 'medicine film' helpful to enjoy movie-making, movie watching, helpful to enjoy and understand life. Francesco Cabras
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8/10
The Land of Plenty
greenylennon3 November 2007
Some days ago, in Rome, a young Romanian man with criminal precedents assaulted and tortured to death a middle-age lady coming back home after an afternoon of shopping. A Romanian girl, who had seen everything, reported what happened.

Therefore, it started a debate about the too much intense flow of immigrants from Romania, generalizing them as criminals, everyone, indiscriminately.

I'm only 15, but I thought: what idea of affluence does Italy give to these poor people? How ever do they regard us as the Land of Plenty? Yesterday evening I finally saw NUOVOMONDO, and my question had an answer. When you have only a donkey and some goats, those propaganda postcards showing United States as a land with milk rivers and huge vegetables, makes such an impression.

NUOVOMONDO is really a must-see film. It balances an ethereal symbolism (milk rivers, glances' play, hard and rocky mountains, the name and character Lucy/Luce) and a cruel realism (the mass of hopeful people on the ship, the procedures at Ellis Island). There's a mixed cast, going from the angelic Charlotte Gainsbourg to the realistic Vincenzo Amato, till a bitter and smashing Aurora Quattrocchi as the mother. But was it really so hard to enter in the New World?
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10/10
A Dreamlike Allegory/A Tale The Points The Finger
Seamus282912 June 2007
I just had the opportunity to see 'Nuovomondo' (hitherto known in the U.S. as 'The Golden Door'), and was very impressed by both it's dreamy & occasionally surreal tale of a family that immigrates from Sicially to the U.S. in the early days of the 20th century. It also worked as a (proverbial)middle finger jammed into the eyeball of Homeland Security (preferably all the way up to the 3rd knuckle),in it's depiction of the ill treatment of foreigners who just want a better life than they were getting from their original mother land. The (mostly) Italian cast, with a few exceptions works well. This is a quiet,understated film that is lovely to look at (the occasional,but tasteful use of surrealism is always a pleasure),while the screenplay is well written. This is a film for those who are sick & tired of mindless escapism from Hollywood that serves little more than to sell popcorn (not that I have any burning issues with popcorn,mind you!---I actually love the stuff). You would do wise to seek out Nuovomondo/The Golden Door (or whatever it's being titled in your area).
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Nobody ever said Chaplin was boring.
jdesando10 July 2007
So now I have a very good idea what my immigrant grandparents went through traveling by boat from Italy and through Ellis Island aka "Golden Door" in the early part of the twentieth century. Emanuel Crialese's Golden Door amply describes the primitive living circumstances that motivate these adventurers to leave home, the cramped weeks aboard a steamer, and the indignities. In fact, the director is so precise that most of the tale lumbers through the details of living and then processing at the island to the detriment of engaging story telling.

The only relief from the boredom (like the voyage) is the occasional Fellini-like impressionism: One prominently has characters swimming in milk (as in the "land of milk and honey") more than once. It could be argued that the director doesn't prepare the audience for the abrupt transitions into the formalist episodes, but I felt relief with them.

By contrast Mira Nair's recent Namesake is superior in telling an interesting story about identity and the new world, and Chaplin's Immigrant (1917) makes the boat ride a model of slapstick and the restaurant scene not only humorous but telling about the challenges immigrants inevitably face. Nobody ever said Chaplin was boring.

Charlotte Gainsbourg stands out as Lucy, a husband-seeking Brit whose literate background makes her useful, and whose role as a strong, beautiful woman allows the film to explore the prejudices against women. She is unforgettable when she and other women sit in a room awaiting the magistrate's permission to marry a man often the woman is meeting for the first time. That a woman would need a man to qualify for entry into America may not be so anachronistic given Hilary needing Bill to make her political career in the twenty first century.

Agnes Godard's cinematography is often the salvation of a scene, for instance when she catches two mountain climbers with rocks in their mouths deftly negotiating a rock-strewn hill top to arrive at a shrine. Mostly she photographs the climbers close up to keep the adventurous sense of surprise. Then she reduces them to just more rubble as she pulls back into a major bird's eye view losing them slowly just as their journey across the Atlantic will reduce them again.

It's a slow journey.
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6/10
Interesting but slow mini-epic
Tumey5 July 2007
Golden Door is a miniature epic, tracking a Sicilian's family emigration to the USA. It starts much too slowly, and although characters are established, it is ill thought out - particularly the dream sequences, which could have provided an added insight.Once the action moves onto the voyage, however, and Charlotte Gainsbourg's character is introduced, an interesting story emerges, and this, combined with humorous touches, are what make the film bearable. It is well directed and shot, with the other lead character, Vincenzo Amato, also impressing.

3 / 5
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8/10
Excellent Movie, Surprisingly Factually Correct
juju-bee28 April 2009
This review is in response to the submission wondering how factually correct the movie was...

Saw this movie last year and found it inspiring that hopeful immigrants, like my Italian grandparents who came through Ellis Island at the turn of the last century, would subject themselves to all manner of invasive inspection just to enter America.

It was certainly eye opening, since my grandparents never spoke of anything terrible while there. My grandmother was 5-years old and my grandfather 18 when they arrived.

I just returned from a trip to New York where I had the pleasure of visiting Ellis Island and the museum actually walks you through the immigration evaluation process - The filmmaker obviously did his research, right down to the medical exams and equipment, questions and puzzles. They are all there at the museum. Even the wedding pictures and the review board room -- Factually correct! Anyone who has immigrant grandparents should see this movie. Inspirational to say the least.
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8/10
New World vs. Old World
gentendo17 November 2008
Warning: Spoilers
The Golden Door is the story of a Sicilian family's journey from the Old World (Italy) to the New World (America). Salvatore, a middle-aged man who hopes for a more fruitful life, persuades his family to leave their homeland behind in Sicily, take the arduous journey across the raging seas, and inhabit a land whose rivers supposedly flow with milk. In short, they believe that by risking everything for the New World their dreams of prosperity will be fulfilled. The imagery of the New World is optimistic, clever and highly imaginative. Silver coins rain from heaven upon Salvatore as he anticipates how prosperous he'll be in the New World; carrots and onions twice the size of human beings are shown being harvested to suggest wealth and health, and rivers of milk are swam in and flow through the minds of those who anticipate what the New World will yield. All of this imagery is surrealistically interwoven with the characters and helps nicely compliment the gritty realism that the story unfolds to the audience. The contrast between this imagery versus the dark reality of the Sicilian people helps provide hope while they're aboard the ship to the New World.

The voyage to the New World is shot almost in complete darkness, especially when the seas tempests roar and nearly kill the people within. The dark reality I referred to is the Old World and the journey itself to the New World. The Old World is depicted as somewhat destitute and primitive. This is shown as Salvatore scrambles together to sell what few possessions he has left (donkeys, goats and rabbits) in order to obtain the appropriate clothing he needs to enter the New World. I thought it was rather interesting that these people believed they had to conform to a certain dress code in order to be accepted in the New World; it was almost suggesting that people had to fit a particular stereotype or mold in order to be recognized as morally fit. The most powerful image in the film was when the ship is leaving their homeland and setting sail for the New World. This shot shows an overhead view of a crowd of people who slowly seem to separate from one another, depicting the separation between the Old and New Worlds. This shot also suggested that the people were being torn away from all that was once familiar, wanted to divorce from their previous dark living conditions and were desirous to enter a world that held more promise.

As later contrasted to how the New World visually looks, the Old World seems dark and bleak as compared to the bright yet foggy New World. I thought it was particularly interesting that the Statue of Liberty is never shown through the fog at Ellis Island, but is remained hidden. I think this was an intentional directing choice that seemed to negate the purpose of what the Statue of Liberty stands for: "Give me your poor, your tired, your hungry" seemed like a joke in regards to what these people had to go through when arriving at the New World. Once they arrived in the Americas, they had to go through rather humiliating tests (i.e. delousing, mathematics, puzzles, etc.) in order to prove themselves as fit for the New World. These tests completely changed the perspectives of the Sicilian people. In particular, Salvatore's mother had the most difficult time subjecting herself to the rules and laws of the New World, feeling more violated than treated with respect. Where their dreams once provided hope and optimism for what the New World would provide, the reality of what the New World required was disparaging and rude. Salvatore doesn't change much other than his attitude towards what he felt the New World would be like versus what the New World actually was seemed disappointing to him. This attitude was shared by mostly everyone who voyaged with him. Their character arcs deal more with a cherished dream being greatly upset and a dark reality that had to be accepted.

The film seems to make a strong commentary on preparing oneself to enter a heavenly and civilized society. Cleanliness, marriage and intelligence are prerequisites. Adhering to these rules is to prevent disease, immoral behavior and stupidity from dominating. Perhaps this is a commentary on how America has learned from the failings of other nations and so was purposefully established to secure that these plagues did not infest and destruct. Though the rules seemed rigid, they were there to protect and help the people flourish.
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7/10
Looking at how my Grandfather made it across
lastliberal20 July 2008
An interesting look at the immigrant experience, told as a fable with some very weird imagery.

I got drawn to this movie because it tells of immigrants from Sicily who traveled to America. I imagine much the same as my Grandfather did at that time. Travelling in steerage to provide ballast for the ships, I cannot imagine it was very comfortable, as shown in this film.

Laws restricting immigrants existed. I would guess that these laws were more strict on those who came from the Mediterranean and Africa. Immigrants had to be free from contagious diseases or hereditary infirmities. In the film, we see physical and mental exams, the latter because of the view that low intelligence is heritable. Single women could not enter the country, on the presumption that they would become prostitutes, so most married single men already in the country, as arranged beforehand, at Ellis Island before entry.

This is the story of a British immigrant (Charlotte Gainsbourg), who arranges to marry a poor Sicilian (Vincenzo Amato). He is trying to get his family through with a son that is mute and a mother (Aurora Quattrocchi) that is considered feeble-minded. She was fantastic in the role, by the way.

You will also see character actor, Vincent Schiavelli, in his next to the last appearance. I don't know if his last film has been released. He plays a matchmaker, and is also very good.

It was a strange, but enjoyable film. It's not for everyone, as I imagine those who don't have some interest in the immigrant experience would find it rather slow.
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6/10
Some good pieces in cinematography and acting, but weak plots and an unnecessary character
yuwei-lin11 July 2007
Although there are some beautiful cinematographic moments, witty scripts, morally benign intention, and promising acting here and there in the film, I regret to say that the film is not good enough to win a Silver Lion (but I have to admit that I haven't seen all films in the competition).

I was impressed by the initial and the ending scenes. In the beginning, the magnificent mountain in Sicily shows how tough it is to live there; in the end, the milk river shows how difficult it is for the Italian immigrants to struggle in a murky stream full of uncertainties. Another brilliant scene is when the boat was leaving the harbor, splitting the crowds on the land and on the boat into two, with the rhythmic noise of the boat engine in the background.

Apart from these well-framed visual presentations, the film also shows some witty conversations from the Mancuso family (e.g. the dad's hack on the blocks IQ examination), and strong acting from Vincenzo Amato (as Salvatore Mancuso) and Aurora Quattrocchi (as Fortunata Mancuso).

The director, however, did not handle the time on the boat well. The nebulous feeling between the Mancuso family and Lucy Reed did not sweeten up the unpleasant experience of immigrants on the boat. Instead, it spoils and endures the difficult time on the boat. Or, perhaps even worse, the existence of Lucy Reed is not necessary at all. This character weakens the whole plot, making everything alienated and inconsistent.

Despite the unsatisfactory arrangements, the issues presented in this film do show that immigration policies haven't changed much through time and space. Today, immigrants, particularly those who want to enter the border of the US, Canada, Australia, the EU, all need to go through the equally, if not more, painful and prolonged process. This film certainly mirrors the inhumanity in immigration policies across time and space.
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10/10
BIG SCREEN magic
kkentuckywoman28 July 2007
This film played in Lexington KY for 7 days. I saw it on the last day of its run & regretted that I could not recommend it to others because this is a film that cries out for the big screen experience. The aerial shot where the crowded ship pulls away from the equally crowded dock is a masterpiece as is the scene where the two lead characters flirt on deck--almost a ballet and sexier in its suggestiveness than so many more explicit films these days. I just cringe to think that more people won't have the opportunity to see this fine film in a theater; the DVD experience will not be the same. Here's an idea: if you live in a college town, see if you can lobby for it to show up in a campus film festival.
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As the grand-daughter of immigrants this movie had great relevance to me
lauralmhs3 July 2007
The Golden Door is the story of the Mancuso family's journey to America at the turn of the last century. The movie can be thought of in three distinct segments: the life the immigrants left behind in "the old country," the Atlantic passage to America, and the processing through Ellis Island.

The opening scenes, although they take place a mere 100 or so years ago, conjure up the Dark Ages. For all the superstition, illiteracy and darkness that pervaded peasant life in Italy at that time, it might very well have been that era.

Once the family decides to depart (only after receiving a "sign" from a saint to whom the patriarch prays), the horrendous conditions in steerage make it hard to imagine that these poor souls took on this voyage voluntarily. But they went. They went seeking out a life in a new land where money grows on trees and rivers run with milk (two of the more surreal themes in the movie).

The processing on Ellis Island – which could end in forced return to the old country – included every kind of indignity, including communal showers, medical exams en massed, intelligence testing that today would be denounced as "culturally biased," and brokered engagements held in an almost auction-like public setting. When it is inquired why all this is necessary, it is pronounced that America does not want the taint of inferior people.

Running as a subplot to the story of the Mancuso family is the story of Salvatore Mancuso and Lucy Reed, an English gentlewoman on board the ship who proposes to him as a means of gaining her admission to America where sponsorship is required of immigrant women. Although she claims that this will be nothing more than a marriage of convenience (and "not for love"), her eyes tell a different story, whereas Salvatore is clearly smitten with her.

This is a gritty and richly detailed movie. One scene where an elderly grandmother holds her grandson's hands in hers focuses on the dirt embedded under their finger nails.

The soundtrack is great, although not appropriate to time or place, alternating between too modern (the music playing over the credits) and more Middle Eastern-sounding than Italian (the folk music played by the immigrants while on board ship).

To witness the hardships that our forebears forbore to pass through "the golden door" is to be jolted out of our American complacency and to appreciate what they endured to pave the way for the lives we enjoy today.

Laura L.
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8/10
an almost magical-civic movie, good acting and vision
valerio fiandra23 October 2006
if filming is about vision and real life this movie is quite perfect: NUOVOMONDO talks about immigration in the USA from Italy the beginning of '900, but it speak also for now, when emigration/immigration is still a focus .

It doesn't to be rich to be a visionary film.

Acting at extra level, Charlotte Gainsbourg a star. A good challenge for the Academy Award 2007

After first Crialese's attempt, "Respiro", an emotional but too intellectual movie, this one has learned Fellini's and Taviani's lesson, to name just two Italian masters.

Plot is arguing, directing accurate, maybe just a little less melodrama would be more effective.

If VOLVER ( challenging for Academy Award next year ) by Almodovar is a mature movie by an always brilliant director, NUOVOMONDO deserves it more, because of his good effort to be a European movie for the American scene.

And this is it!
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5/10
Hardly worth the journey
D A3 January 2008
The Golden Door attempts to play out with authenticity and old world charm as we watch an early 20th century Italian family brave the rough waters to America. With decent production value and some fine cinematography we are led on a brief-but-extended, pseudo-epic journey which may please older emigrated families, but rarely will please film buffs craving some of the restrained vision this film pretends to have.

For one it just seems the film's creator, Emanuele Crialese, is a bit young to be relaying this tale in such a detailed scope, and at times it really shows. Contrasting his often contrived and over-extended scenes with some inventive imagery might have been more successful had the surrealism been implemented a bit more maturely, but here the direction mostly comes across as silly or distracting.
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8/10
Good in parts, but.....
Ged5921 July 2007
This is a good film, no doubt, but with some odd aspects. Without spoiling anything it takes place in 3 places only- a Sicilian farm, the boat,and Ellis Island New York. All shots are close up so we never see a broad sweep of anything. I wonder if this was to save money? No street scenes anywhere, and we don't even see the boat except in close ups. And the music...what on earth was going on with playing Nina Simone songs, decades before they were out? I could have done without the milk river business too......But hey, before you think of me as a pure misanthrope, let me repeat, this is a very good film, with heartbreakng moments, wonderful photography, great characters and more accuracy than the usual (American) efforts at the immigration experience.
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3/10
Yawn
Nat Williams6 September 2008
Being a history buff, I rented this movie because of the subject matter. The idea of the Ellis Island experience at the turn of the century focusing on one small group is intriguing. Unfortunately, the movie falls flat. Much of the story is simply boring; nothing much happens for long stretches. The director uses goofy imagery (offered up in the form of daydream sequences) in an apparent attempt to break up the glacial pacing, but instead, it clashes with the authentic look and feel of the movie. The characters are also poorly drawn. In the end, we don't really care as much about them as we should. It's a shame that this wasn't what it could have been. I would still like to see a good movie about the American immigrant experience, but this one isn't it.
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8/10
Nuovomondo
film_riot6 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
"Nuovomondo" was a great experience. Many filmmakers tell their stories to a big extent via dialogue. Emanuele Crialese directs his film very visually driven. For everything he wants to tell, he finds powerful images that are able to stand for themselves. Thus, he understands film as a medium that primarily tells its stories over the pictures on screen. Particularly European cinema is often very dialogue-driven (and many of the young US-American directors are strongly influenced by that). Crialese's opposite attitude was really the point, that made this film special for me. It has also a very interesting topic that is wrapped up in a quite unusual story and told with humour. Vincenzo Amato is outstanding as family head Salvatore, as well as the amazing Charlotte Gainsbourg, who I enjoy watching in every single one of her movies. There are many great sequences in this movie. Just to pick one: When the ship leaves Italy and the people just quietly stare. This scene is great, particularly if you consider the pop cultural references that go with it (Titanic!).
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8/10
New World Symphony
writers_reign6 July 2007
Warning: Spoilers
This is a film notable for what is not shown as much as for what is. What IS shown is the incredible poverty in Sicily as the 19th century gave way to the 20th, a life style that made people dream of the 'New' World of America. The Mancuso family live in a place that is not even a hamlet, just a stone cottage set amid the harsh, unyielding stones of a country that cannot offer even a single blade of green grass. An opening sequence sees the Mancuso males scrambling barefoot up a craggy hillside, stones in their mouth to offer at a shrine at the top in exchange for a 'sign' that they should set out for the New World or remain where they are. It further shows life aboard the liner, huddled masses indeed, yearning to breathe free, and conditions in Ellis Island where, their journey still not over, they are interrogated and examined to prove their 'fitness' to enter America. What is NOT shown is the ship in Longshot, or indeed ANY shot that would identify it as a large, ocean-going liner; what is also not shown is anything that would identify America, no cliché view of New York Harbour and the Statue of Liberty, so that Ellis Island could be anywhere in any country. Perhaps the most remarkable shot is the one from a Camera Crane looking down on hundreds of people jammed together; slowly, almost imperceptibly two thirds of the people at Screen Left begin to separate from the third at Screen Right and we realize that those on the left are actually aboard the ship and those on the right are on the dock, a powerful statement of society being fragmented. There's a strong documentary feel throughout as though we were following an actual ship full of immigrants even though it has been carefully scripted and is clearly an amalgam of typical families/conditions at the time. With almost nothing happening in dramatic terms it's not for the popcorn brigade at the Multiplex but for the rest of us it's a very fine film indeed.
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A brooding epic of realism and 'magic'
Cliff Hanley4 July 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Stranger things have happened than the director of 'Respiro' seeing the well-worn and much-loved opening credits sequence for Monty Python, and allowing his memory to resurface in the opening of this epic as two young men, now in close-up, now tiny and lost in the aerial microcosmic pattern of hill rocks, pieces of stone jammed in their bleeding mouths, struggle to the holy cairn at the top to ask a vital question. Simultaneously two girls, bearing promises of marriage to (perhaps) rich foreigners and photos of giant vegetables and American streets paved with gold, are persuaded to throw the photos away; the pictures are taken by a dumb lad to the cairn just as the eldest, Salvatore (Amato), begs the Gods to tell "us" if "we" should stay, or leave. Salvatore, his family, which gradually grows as the story opens out, are joined by a lost and rootless English lady (Gainsbourg) who decides to join the family if she can, to gain entry into the Promised Land. The story right from the start looks like a coat hanger for the visuals, and it is a treat throughout for the eyes. The great break as the ship leaves home is handled in a completely unconventional way: A God's-eye view shows the heads on board and the heads remaining on shore slowly separating as the ship moves out, as if the crowd is a 'people cake' that has been sliced. The sheer brutality of the situation these people have to live through is leavened by this kind of camera-work, and by the occasional magic dream, as when the no-longer brooding Salvatore's face is showered by coins.

The tensions, though, coming out of the struggle to leave the Old Country, survive the voyage and pass into the New Country, and the simple efforts of strangers to cope with each other, keep it fascinating. Whenever Aurora Quattrocchi, 'Mama', is on screen, it seems to shift round to her point of view, yet another layer. The episodic structure, too, adds to the illusion of it's being shorter than it is. There are as many apparent links to the coming century as to the past here - the scenes on the mountain look like Pasolini, and the three males could almost have been the Marx Brothers

After the nightmare of travelling 'steerage', a storm in mid-Atlantic and the interminable and humiliating selection process and 'aptitude' tests at Ellis Island (lack of intelligence has been scientifically proved to be genetically inherited, and we do not want these people amongst our citizens), it remains ambiguous whether everyone has got through to the Land of Milk and Honey, or the Mean Streets. I would say on the strength of this, that if anyone has the guts to put up the money for a film of 100 Years of Solitude, Crialese must be your man. CLIFF HANLEY
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7/10
Left Elbow Index
eldino3318 December 2009
This film promises much but delivers little. The basic problem has to do with the inclusion of Charlotte Gainsbourg's character in this film. Immigrants from Sicily did not need a redheaded Anglo in any way--the movie may have needed her, but new citizens certainly did not. In my opinion,the decision to include her destroys the continuity of the film. This is particularly troubling since it seems to demean not only the characters in the movie, but also the history of immigration itself. Immigrants themselves were heroic figures, fully capable of getting along without having to satisfied what I believer to be a veiled image of "the white man's burden." I wonder if someone will make a movie of Irish immigrants which will include a Sicilian woman as a major character. The Left Elbow Index considers seven aspects of film--acting, production sets, dialogue, artistry, film continuity, plot, and character development--on a scale from high of 10 for excellent, 5 for average, and 1 for needs help. Both film continuity and plot rate a low of 1. The continuity as discussed above is further degraded by the surrealistic ending. Does not a film of such important historical significance deserve more than a conclusion which reminds one of Marc Chagall? The plot is simple enough, until it seems to become entangled with too much time in the old country, too little time on the ship, and too much emphasis on the ending. The acting and character development is average since all the characters are fixed throughout the film, and the inclusion of the Anglo-Saxon speaking perfect English almost turns the movie into a satire. Where's Groucho when you need him? The production sets, the dialogue and the artistry are very good, each rating a 10. The sets in Sicily, on the ship, and on Ellis Island are as good as one can find. The dialogue is marvelous, and the ethic singing is superb. I agree with Scorsese that listening to the Sicilian dialect is a pleasure. Note that the immigrants speak of "America", not the "United States"--the ideal vs. the political reality. The are many good artistic scenes, with dreams of America, gold coins raining, and giant veggies among the best. The average Left Elbow Index is 5.25, raised to a 7.0 when equated with the IMDb scale. One other notion seems to run through Ellis Island experience: the tribulations of pass immigrants was grueling, later, in 2006, one only had to pay a coyote or boat owner and sneak into the county under the darkness of night, no questions asked! The movie is worth seeing, but it appears that what one sees is problematical.
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3/10
Too much overrated
dariusspini16 November 2006
The best part in this movie is the first one, located in Sicily, I suppose. Crialese shows a good talent for photography and the movie start is delightfully surprising. The rest of the story is quite boring. Crialese uselessly insists on stereotypical situations and characters, trying to melt neorealistic suggestions and video-music technique, Fellinian surrealistic remembrances and a very annoying and completely off-topic soundtrack, leading the whole thing towards an end which gives you the sensation of an exaggeratedly long story cut abruptly short. Frankly, this is a real overrated movie and Crialese is a real overrated director.
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