Saturday, June 14, 2014

"The Immigrant": self-conscious period drama about "real life" in New York in the 1920s

The Immigrant” (by James Gray), is certainly an artsy period piece of New York in 1921, and definitely shows some “real life” for immigrants coming into the US, and could fit into the political debate today,
Ewa Cybulska (Marion Cotillard) arrives at Ellis Island with her sister, who is immediately quarantined with tuberculosis.  Desperate to stay in the US and raise money for her sister, Ewa allows herself to drawn into prostitution by the opportunistic Bruno (Joaquin Phoenix, who had supposedly retired from acting).  But then she meets Bruno’s cousin, the magician Orlando or Emil (Jeremy Renner) who takes her under his wing and turns on Bruno, with a bizarre magical twist.  There were hints of “The Illusionist” and maybe even “The Prestige” in the magic scenes.

There's a socially troubling scene where a father brings a young man to the "house of ill repute:, claiming that his teenager is not "manly".  I thought, I once nicknamed a government teacher (in 12th grade) "Manly Stanley".  
The screenwriting is interesting.  Following the advice of writing teachers, it creates a real-life crisis for the heroine at the opening, and resolves the crisis at the end of the movie with some irony as well as justice.  The only problem for me was getting into living in this particular world. The film is long (120 minutes). 
Harvey Weinstein talks about the film in Variety here. The official site (France) is here.  I saw the film in the Charles Center in Baltimore today (near the gay pride festival) before a scant audience.  I kept remembering “fGangs of New York”.

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