Elia Kazan, ethnic Greek but Turkish by birth, tells the story of the struggles of his uncle - in this account named Stavros Topouzoglou - in emigrating to America. In the 1890's, the young, kind-hearted but naive Stavros lived in Anatolia, where the Greek and Armenian minorities were repressed by the majority Turks, this repression which often led to violence. Even Stavros being friends with an Armenian was frowned upon. As such, Stavros dreamed of a better life - specifically in America - where, as a result, he could make his parents proud by his grand accomplishments. Instead, his parents, with most of their money, sent Stavros to Constantinople to help fund the carpet shop owned by his first cousin once removed. What Stavros encountered on his journey, made on foot with a small donkey, made him question life in Anatolia even further. Once in Constantinople, his resolve to earn the 110 Turkish pound third class fare to the United States became stronger than ever. But try after try,...Written by
Director Elia Kazan narrates the main portion of the closing credits, reading the words as they appear on the screen, using complete sentences such as "The cinematography was by Haskell Wexler." See more »
"America, America" is a movie made with the soul. It is a hair-raising movie about the immigrant experience, made by artists temporarily outside the Hollywood cage. It is about the struggle to be human in a world that bites at you, and it is about naked desire. "America, America" is a film about a young man with ichor in his arteries, made by people with ichor in their arteries.
Stavros is a young Greek from Anatolia, a youth with burning eyes, full of ethos as well. He yearns to live a life away from degradation (Greeks in Anatolia were a despised minority). This movie shows his peregrination to America, in three of the shortest hours I've ever lived. It shows a cycle of being broken and rebuilt over and again, the death of illusions, the obduracy of hope, and the rack of desire.
Haskell Wexler deserves special mention as he quite frequently produced jaw-dropping shots in this movie. There is a scene in this movie where Stavros is sat next to an older woman, Sophia (sat together like panthers watching an ape play with jackals), and the electricity between them, established entirely visually, is a devastation.
The editing from Dede Allen, is similarly special, and you can see that Kazan acknowledged all this creative talent as he reads out all the names of the major creative staff at the end over the credits. One particularly beautiful effect was a dissolve the last time we see Stavros' mother, where her face persist on the screen for a moment, almost as if she has become a ghost.
You absolutely must see this movie.
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