Golden Door (Nuovomondo)


 

This was the official website for the 2006 movie, Golden Door (Nuovomondo).
Content is from outside movie review sources.

Director: Emanuele Crialese
Starring: Charlotte Gainsbourg, Vincenzo Amato, Francesco Casisa, Ernesto Mahieux, Andrea Prodan
Rating: (PG-13)
In Theaters: May 25, 2007 Wide
On Disc/Streaming: Jan 8, 2008

 



Golden Door (2006) Nuovomondo - Trailer
From the internationally acclaimed director of Respiro, winner of the Cannes Critic's Week Award in 2002, Golden Door is a moving yet unsentimental film of mythic resonance which tells the story of the early years of mass Italian immigration to the United States.

 

REVIEWS

 

Golden Door (Nuovomondo)
2007—Reviewed by David Edelstein, New York Magazine
You'll hear a lot about a momentous and magical overhead shot in Emanuele Crialese's Golden Door. Hundreds of Sicilians assemble on the deck of a ship sailing for America, while hundreds of their countrymen (and family members) stand on the other side of the railing. From above, they are one group, one people, covering the screen from corner to corner in their dark coats and hats—and then, with a deep rumble, the ship begins to pull away, an ocean opening between them. What's disorienting is that the camera stays with the ship, so it's the people on land who appear to be sailing away. And, in a sense, they are: into history.

The movie is a blessing. We know about Ellis Island at the beginning of the last century: from books, maybe, or our grandparents or great-grandparents. But Golden Door makes it tactile. The film has three distinct sections, each mysterious, each stylized in its own way. The first, in Sicily, frames the men and women who contemplate the journey to the New World against white stone: stone walls, stone hills, a sea of sharp stones between mountains and villages. There's no music—only the sounds of chickens and goats. To leave the Old World is a wrenching decision for the farmer, Salvatore (Vincenzo Amato), his sons (one a deaf-mute), and his severe old mother (Aurora Quattrocchi). Their religion is as elemental as their homeland—they beg the saints for a sign. And they get a dilly: doctored photos from America showing people holding sci-fi-size mutant vegetables and money literally growing on trees.

The rhythms of the movie are slow and daydreamy, but Crialese delights in breaking up the realism with his protagonist's mystical—almost madcap—visions of the New World's abbondanza. The ship becomes a giant stage-set on which the Sicilians roam, pray, settle into bunks, and, tragically, die in numbers when a storm hits. (The camera remains below deck as they're hurled around—there are no exterior shots once the movie leaves Sicily.) There is also an exotic creature aboard: a poised, smartly dressed Englishwoman called Lucy (Charlotte Gainsbourg) with a past she keeps to herself. Salvatore circles her, spies on her. She is like nothing he has ever seen. She is modernity itself.

What happens in the last section—on Ellis Island—will be an eye-opener for those of us who cling to our romantic illusions: a battery of intelligence tests to prevent "below average" people from polluting the genetic pool, even if it means admitting some family members and sending others back. By far the most jarring ritual is the one in which males are coldly paired with (frequently horrified) females for quickie marriages. ("Do you acknowledge him?")

The greatness of Golden Door is its tone; sympathetic but always wry. Its immigrants are processed and released into the New World, where so many doors have been opened and so many others slammed shut.

 

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Nuovomondo (The Golden Door, 2006)
Posted on February 15, 2009 by ferdy
Director: Emanuele Crialese

By Roderick Heath/ Ferdy on Films
In a primal setting, a primal rite: Salvatore Mancuso (Vincenzo Amato) and his elder son Angelo (Francesco Casisa) struggle up a rocky mountainside bare-footed, with stones clenched between their teeth. They fight their way up to a crucifix mounted on a hilltop. They spit out the saliva- and blood-smeared stones and beg for divine guidance—should they remain in their exhausted, inhospitable land, or flee?
Simultaneously, two young women, Rita (Federica De Cola) and Rosa (Isabella Ragonese), are pursued by Salvatore’s other son, Pietro (Filippo Pucillo), who everyone assumes to be a deaf-mute because he never speaks. He tries to delight or repel them, or both, by decorating his hair with snails. But they’re too fretful to be long distracted. As they’re soon confessing to their terse, old mystic of a grandmother, Fortunata (Aurora Quattrocchi), Rita is tormented by a feeling like she has “a snake in her stomach” and has so ever since they were approached by local merchant Don Ercole (Filippo Luna) to be mail-order brides for established men in America. He sent them a set of novelty photos showing money growing on trees and gigantic chickens—the squirming of the snake in Rita’s belly is restless discontent and anxiety. Fortunata performs a piece of folk magic, affecting to tug the offensive animal out of her stomach. But Fortuanta’s attempts to tame the beast of discontent are failing, as Pietro races to presents the amazing photographs, which she ordered him to burn, to his father and brother as they pray on the hilltop, providing exactly the sign they were seeking.

Salvatore sells their animals to finance emigration. Don Ercole sells them clothes belonging to a dead man—a baron, no less—and tells them not to bother putting on their shoes until they get to a city. Salvatore, given to occasional, surreal fantasies, imagines a field where gigantic carrots and other vegetables are being dug out of the ground, energizing him to take the two girls and his grandmother as well. Fortunata dissents, not wanting to leave the spirits of their relatives. In protest, Salvatore digs a hole in the ground and almost completely buries himself, demanding to know what’s so damned great about this arid, poverty-stricken, backward place they live in. He lies covered in dirt all night, dreaming of silver coins raining from the sky. In the morning, Fortunata resurrects him, emerging from the hut to tug his hand from the earth, and soon the whole rag-tag clan is making their way towards a seaport.

Nuovomondo is a film with a feel and respect for mystery: third-time feature director Crialese’s conception drags us from the edge of history through to the dawn of the very modern era. Fortunata, Salvatore, and their family live in a peasant world with a preternatural instinct for magic and mysticism; eventually they will be confronted by a different, no less awesome magic in the skyscrapers of Manhattan. But they also refuse to leave behind their own magic, a refusal that will present difficulties in breaching the “golden door” of its English-language title. Nuovomondo, like its characters, straddles Old World and New, its style blending the sparse, hushed intensity of European masters with a distinct impetus, a refusal to retreat into hopeless circularity or narrative impasse, as befits a film about determination and hope. The final passages are toned by the effervescence and attitude of Nina Simone. The inscrutable poise of the opening segues into a linking series of enigmas through the narrative: cinematographer Agnes Godard’s camera, Crialese’s direction of it, and his script maintain a strict measure of control over what the viewer is absorbing. The Mancusos are innocent, but they’re also tough and shrewd and refuse to act like victims, even if it hurts. Characters and incidents enter the frame unannounced and threaten to leave again, a tactic which emphasizes the nature of dislocation and the intense nervousness, the perceived lack of control, a note of threat and anxiety that contradicts any clichés of reflexive nostalgia and propaganda.

When the Mancusos and their charges reach their city of embarkation, it’s a bustling, filthy dive full of cheats and criminals, as well as decent and helpful folk. One man tries to force them to buy useless medicine; others warn them about the scam and of the troubles they can expect at Ellis Island. When they’re being processed at the outgoing emigration post, a new character enters the tale. First casually observed leaning against a pillar and then creeping into the corners of the frame is the comely, red-headed form of Lucy Reed (Charlotte Gainsbourg), an inexplicably stranded Englishwoman without any apparent friends or support. She attaches herself to the Mancusos, only to be caught out as they move to get on the boat, pretending to speak no Italian for a pushy, sleazy official. She’s as intent, and desperate, on getting to America as any of the peasants around her, and she’s told in no uncertain terms that to get through customs she needs to be attached to a man.

Lucy proves a tantalizing and potentially valuable passenger on the migrant ship. Don Luigi (Vincent Schiavelli, in his last role), a marriage broker of a higher class than Don Ercole, promises her a convenient union in New York. Lucy is the object of endless, mostly derogatory, speculation by others passengers, but she keeps tight-lipped, forming tenuous friendships with Rita and Rosa, stirring the prickly Fortunata’s wrath when she objects to the matriarch’s constant negative mumbling, and being a convenient lust-object for Pietro and Angelo, the latter sneaking about the cabin at night, breathing in the odor welling off her. For Salvatore, she’s something more—a perfect fantasy partner for a new fantasy world where he imagines floating with her in a river of milk that rumor has it flows in California. Salvatore shaves off his moustache and looks 20 years younger. Rather than accept one of Luigi’s sheikhs, Lucy will ask Salvatore to marry her at Ellis Island to help her get through. He agrees with all the courtly civility of a cavalier, for though both deny any chance of love in their union, Salvatore cuts away a lock of her hair, “so that we won’t lose each other.” “I don’t believe in magic,” Lucy replies. “With time, I’ll teach you about it,” he promises.

Describing the story of Nuovomondo inevitably falls short for a film that is as successful a piece of magic-realism as recent cinema has produced, and has traits much like its characters, alive to fleeting textures and cagey about declarations. There is an extraordinary texture to almost offhand sequences, like when Fortunata “exorcises” Rita, tugging what looks awfully like a joke-shop serpent from inside her; when the passengers on the ship are flung about by a storm like laundry in a washing machine; when they stumble out battered upon deck the next day, a young woman lurching blearily with her dead baby, dropping it overboard before collapsing like a dishrag; when Lucy walks the deck, exchanging quizzical, teasing glances with Salvatore who reverently stalks her, her red hair shimmering in the sun and time slowed every so slightly; Salvatore’s humorous fantasy visions; the immigrants frantically brushing out their hair and trying to assemble a veneer of cleanliness for their arrival; a furiously exuberantly ceilidh; and a fog-laden arrival in New York Harbor with all but the highest panes in the immigrant station frosted, forcing the men to climb up them to get a first view of the city.

The gilded cliché of the “immigrant experience” has of course been portrayed before, exploited by the varying agendas of films like The Godfather Part II (giving cred to gangsters) and Titanic (providing picturesque drinking buddies). Nuovomondo strikes far harder and echoes far deeper not least for being intricately modest. It evokes, in spirit if not execution, Charlie Chaplin’s infamous boot in the pants to the immigration official in The Immigrant (1917) in its ground-level humanism. There’s a total rejection of the grandiose in its sensibility, even the ambling epicism of Tarkovsky and Angelopolous, whose influence can be detected in the style, along with dashes of Fellini’s quirk: the context is instead utterly personal, with an close-quarters feel for moral and physical consequence. The film doesn’t romanticize what the Mancusos are leaving, whilst acknowledging it will always dominate their psyches; nor will what they find fulfill their dreams, even though it can hardly be worse.

Ellis Island, once reached, is an Escher-sketch tangle of halls, departments, degradations, and bureaucratic hoops, moments of stripping and being paraded and prodded. Candidates are expected to arrange blocks of wood into shapes as a test of intelligence despite the fact few of them have any concept of abstract puzzle—Salvatore immediately arranges them into a model of his farm. Fortunata, bewildered by a new world that values geometry, not magic, asks the officials if they are God to decided who enters the new world. Crialese’s layered direction recognizes that small gestures can lay the world waste and open up vast futures: the most crucial moment in the film, and also the most showy, is when Crialese halts every motion in the frame, with Lucy and Fortunata only moving slightly, absorbing the import of Fortunata’s slight nod to Lucy—her acceptance of her as a member of her family.

The film builds to an excruciatingly tense climax in which the women of the party are arrayed, in their forlorn attempts to look like brides with veils and good dresses, to be sold off to their matches, and Lucy sits stoically, but with increasing anxiety waiting for Salvatore to get through his processing, with Luigi and his prospective beaus waiting to snatch her up when she gets desperate enough. There’s already been the spectacle of Rita submissively and glumly acknowledging her pudgy, middle-aged beau, and Rosa berating hers for not matching his description of himself, but likewise submits. Meanwhile, Fortunata and Pietro are threatened with deportation, leading Fortunata to demand Pietro do what he least wants to.

Crialese is aided by a superlatively understated cast and Godard’s astounding camerawork. It’s specifically by resisting the tendency to spell things out in blazing neon letters, its firm control on what it wants to reveal and say and not trying to tug tears, that gives Nuovomondo the impact it finally possesses. It builds to a final moment that ranks with that of Terence Malick’s own vision of The New World (2005) and Emir Kusturica’s cap of Underground (1995) among the most transcendent moments in recent cinema.

 

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TOMATOMETER CRITICS 73% | AUDIENCE 69%

A family living in poverty leaves behind the world they know in hope of finding new opportunities in this historical drama from director Emanuele Crialese. The Mancusos are a family struggling to make ends meet in a small farming community in Sicily in 1913. Life has long been hard for the Mancuso Family, who have lived in the same village for generations, and one day they are visited by a man who claims to be from the United States. The man tells them of the wonder and plenty of life in America, an offers to make it possible for them to travel to the New World and find work there. The Mancusos cautiously accept the offer, but after a dangerous voyage aboard an ocean liner, the family arrives in New York to face a number of new challenges -- the humiliating examination at Ellis Island, and abandoning their old lives and ways as they struggle to assimilate in a massive city that is now their home. Starring Charlotte Gainsbourg, Francesco Casisa and Vincenzo Amato, The Golden Door (aka Nuovomondo) received its world premier at the 2006 Venice Film Festival.

ROTTEN TOMATO AUDIENCE REVIEWS

** Private U December 27, 2007
Crialese follows Respiro with another Sicilian-set film. Fellini-meets-the-Taviani-Brothers in a rather reduntant and dull film, whose only saving grace is the beautiful set design. Amato is fine, Gainsbourg is not.

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***½ Nadav A  December 24, 2007
Not bad but could be better. Interesting story and strong characters/acting, but some strange directing decisions.

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*½ Pippa B December 23, 2007
I found this rather uneventful...although as a documentary of the processes early immigrants to the US went through it was quite intresting.

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***½ Seán S  December 21, 2007
I thought it was very well done. Photography was stunning as well as the acting. The story was also very well done

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***** Private U December 20, 2007
Crialese is a difficult filmmaker to get to terms with, and so is this film. The first half challenges the viewer to sit through the first half of the film with almost no dialogue, and then opens up. It demands your full attention, your intellect and your whole heart, and if you're prepared to give thath, then this is a modern masterpiece. It takes balls to make something like this.

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**½ Rich B December 17, 2007
Overall disappointing. Excellent in places but never really takes you anywhere...

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**½ Private U December 16, 2007
A rather odd film with moments of surreal brilliance - swimming through milk with a giant carrot - but not massively satisfying

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**** Private U December 10, 2007
"Dobbiamo sapere se siete buoni per entrare nel nuovomondo"

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**½ Kris V December 10, 2007
Nice time spender. But in some moments to unequal and unbelievable. They really should have got more out of it.
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***Private U December 10, 2007
sweet little film that felt slightly out of kilter in parts

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** Violaine E December 9, 2007
I'm all for artsy fartsy films that take their time, really I actually enjoy it, but except for the documentary side of how immigrants were"greeted" on Ellis Island I had to fast forward it was soooo boring!

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****½ Yael K  December 7, 2007
Impressive opening scene, intersting film about the experience of immigration to America from Sisely, Italy. Loved it.
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**** Ramy S December 4, 2007
No matter how shiny that door into the new world looked, don't even try to imagine what's behind until you are close enough.
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***** Ruth S December 1, 2007
a beautiful and sensitive portrayal of the plight of the immigrant. Also some unusual and tantalizing camera shots that make you think.

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****Brad F November 28, 2007
I liked the part where they all in the getting their photograph taken and the the english woman slowly walks into to frame. The way the family is staring at her as she walks away again was classic. I realay enjoyed this movie. I thought the characters in the film were so believable too, the way they all had dirt under there nails. Very well made.

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**** Cynthia R November 26, 2007
Fun to see an art-house film. It was unlike anything I've seen before- it actually left me surprised at how much I liked it. The script was also written very well with a good cast of actors and some minor artsy-like moments making it that much more unique. Thank god for this movie- for I was looking for a sigh of good cinema relief since my run in with some low-quality big summer blockbusters. It was one of those movies that god me so interested, I ended it with my mouth open from amazement. Well done.

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*** ½ Dan S November 22, 2007
Crialese's eye for an arresting image and a lovely performance from lead Vincenzo Amato make Golden Door one of the unsung art-house films of the year.

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***  Simon C November 21, 2007
Unlike anything I have seen before. Strange yet engaging with occasional, unexpected "rivers of milk with giant vegetables" scenes!

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*** ½ Pondering T November 18, 2007
It is avious at times when watching movies that budgets dictate what a movie can do and where it can go in its depiction of what it is trying to say on screen. Watching the Italian director Emanuele Crialese's film Nuovomondo (Golden Door) I could not help but get the feel that here we had a director that was working on a very tight and limited budget. In a testiment to that (and his abilities) I found that what I saw as limitations in budget actually worked to his advantage in the way the movie was shot and actual helped to elevate this film to me. Here we have a film that is, in its close up visual study unlike most other films you will probably see this year.

Golden Door is a very ... intimate... film. Intimate in a way that gives very little in scenes but a close up shot of the person (s) one is seeing in each scene. There are very limited sweeping shots (limited exclusively to a few at the beginning of the film), but for me, this gave the feel a much more personal feel and helped me to feel much more like I was one of those people there with them, stuck in the hole of that ship or waiting day after day in a building on an island only minutes from what I dreamed would be a better life. While perhaps frustrating to some (we never see any shots of New York, the statue of liberty, etc), for me it was the fact that we did not see them that made this a more real and urgent tale to me. The boats often travelled on by those millions of immigrants must have been crowded and dark, and the idea of heading to a place and wanting it so badly (sight unseen) is really pushed home here. There are many whom (as the film depicts) never made it past the walls of ellis island, never set foot on their beloved goal and never got to see what it was they sacrificed so much for. I like the fact that this was showcased so vividly in the closeness and confining way this film did.

Salvatore is a widower with two sons (one assumed mute) and a superstitious old mother set in her ways, that decides to forge a better life for him and his family (like so many others through time) in America. Upon reaching the boat that they will travel on from Italy, he is befriended ( more like somewhat highjacked) by an English women, Lucy, whom pretends to be travelling with the family to America (why she is in Italy in the first place or what her true thoughts and real intentions were about most things are never really addressed or explored at all here). She must find a husband before she reaches the United STates and so it is agreed that Salvatore (whom actually does take a liking to her) will marry her. Character development is non existent in this story, and little of the history or (in the case of Lucy) the reasons for heading to America are ever looked at, but in some ways that was okay with me. This was a movie whose sole focus was to showcase what it must have been like, and what many had to go through to make their dream of a better life reality.

After a slow start the movie does begin to pick up pace and it is when the ship sails and the subsequent arrival at Ellis Island and the processes which persons must go through (some of which I was not fully aware of before seeing this film) that help to bring an interest to this story.

As mentioned before, shots are intimate and close, but often moving. Scenes like the storm when the ship is rocked and tossed and the poor are locked into their below deck "garrison" to fend for themselves till it is over, or the daily marching around ellis to a battery of test to determine if one is smart enough to mix with the general American population. Or the hundreds of women, courted for marriage by men whom they have never met, sitting across from them in a room picked out like cattle at an early morning auction (but they allow themselves to be treated in such was to bring themselves a better life) are interesting to watch and give us the viewer a small glimpse of what it must have been like for many whom first came across the ocean and arrived at Ellis Island. I especially enjoyed the scene where a group of men (led by Salvadore) see a window high up not frosted over, and in a vain attempt to actually get a glimpse of the prize they are all there for (upon their arrival at Ellis Island on the boat it was so foggy no one could see anything.. another smart move to solve a problem of budget as well as very in keeping with the general idea of confinment) climb on each others shoulders only to be stopped by guards at the very moment they were to just about get that first look.

Director Crialese never once wavered from what I saw as his desire to keep his character (and us) totally confined and controlled, and for that I think he set a mood for his film that was probably the best thing about it.

This is not a movie that is trying to make a larger, grander point, (although his characters, more the women ones, do question some of the actions of the guards and the need for and ideas behind some of the tests administered on the island), more it is just a movie about the experiences of this one family (and the stranger they met) as they tried to make their way to a new life. This is a story told millions of times through the years, and one that continues to be told millions of times in a million different ways.

As a Sunday afternoon matinee, I would recommend this film. Slow moving as it is, and limited (as mentioned before) by its budget, it is a film that ultimately was, to me, engrossing and interesting. This is a movie that could be told again and again and again, and one I have seen done many times before. What kept this one fresh and of interest to me was (as mentioned) the confining aspects of it in a visual sense of the idea, and the wonderment .... right up to the very last scene of what will come next. We never find out and we never see the prize, but then sometimes in life that goal is never reached, or when it is it may not be what we thought or imagined it to be when we first set out in our quest. 7

 

 

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