The Golden Door DVD Review
By Prairie Miller
The look and manner of immigrants to the US of any historical time, is a well worn group portrait, a mixture of cautious uncertainty and a self-conscious sense of relegated difference. But rarely has a film penetrated beneath that common, usually stereotypical surface to the acutely individualized fears and conflicted dreams of these nomads of determined destiny, like Italian director Emanuele Crialese's Golden Door (Nuovomundo).
At once compassionate and multi-dimensional, magical yet unidealized, Golden Door's early 20th century Sicilian immigrants to NYC's Ellis Island are lacking in roadmaps and language, and readily embrace instead collective fantasy and rural folklore. The narrative, such as it exists in minimalist terms, focuses on two Atlantic steamship voyagers, a passionately optimistic peasant from the countryside Mancuso (Vincenzo Amato), and a mysterious British lady Lucy (Charlotte Gainsbourg) trying to reach the United States without too much scrutiny or detection among the Italian passengers. But the real protagonists of Golden Door are the masses of people on land and sea. In a most poetic scene that immortalizes the distance established between those who depart and the ones that are left behind, the boat separates from the shore, abruptly dividing a deeply connected people.
Before leaving his village, Mancuso buries himself in the earth to commune with his ancestors and be blessed by them, while he muses about coins falling from the sky and covering him. On board the ship, men daydream about flying donkeys who scatter money across the new land, while rivers of milk flow through an imagined California as giant carrots float by reconceived as life rafts. Lucy's issues are less fanciful, as she deflects gossip and stares directed at a woman who dares to travel alone and live unpossessed by men.
Golden Door is a cinematic treasure, dipped in the delights of magical realism and the enchanting dual consciousness of cultural relativism. And while these fearless wanderers also suffer the plight of rejection, disappointments, emotional isolation and imposed conformity, the moments of utter amazement like unfamiliar bread that tastes like clouds, possess inspired revelations that we understand will surely sustain them. In any case, those whose prophetic rivers of milk don't engulf them.
Walt Disney Video
DVD Features: Introduction by Martin Scorsese; Featurette - The Making of Golden Door.
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