×

Golden Door

An imaginative, intelligent and attractive Italo pic precisely when the country needs it most, Emanuele Crialese's "Golden Door" reps a solid piece of cinema that neither panders nor preaches. Sure to be a prize winner, "Golden Door" should find glittering prospects waiting on both local and offshore screens.

With:
Lucy - Charlotte Gainsbourg Salvatore - Vincenzo Amato Donna Fortunata - Aurora Quattrocchi Angelo - Francesco Casisa Pietro - Filippo Pucillo Rita - Federica de Cola Rosa - Isabella Ragonese

An imaginative, intelligent and attractive Italo pic precisely when the country needs it most, Emanuele Crialese’s “Golden Door” reps a solid piece of cinema that neither panders nor preaches. Moving from rural Sicily to third-class steerage to Ellis Island, this tripartite tale of a family’s journey from the Old World to the New propels them from a superstitious past into a colder-eyed modernity. Meticulously researched, pic slips only when it uncharacteristically departs from the focused story and too obviously attempts a lesson. Sure to be a prize winner, “Golden Door” should find glittering prospects waiting on both local and offshore screens.

Long in gestation, pic was given an initial treatment by Crialese in ’99 with the assistance of producer Robert Chartoff, but, only after the success of Crialese’s sophomore flick, “Respiro: Garzia’s Island,” did Italo-French funding come together giving Crialese a green light for “Golden Door.” Filming started in Sicily and then moved to Argentina, where an old hotel in Buenos Aires doubled for Ellis Island.

Popular on Variety

Opening moments reaffirm Crialese’s affinity for landscape. A barefoot Salvatore Mancuso (Vincenzo Amato) and his older son Angelo (Francesco Casisa) scramble up a rocky mountainside with stones in their mouths as proof of their devotion to the wooden cross at the top. Set against this unforgiving topography, the two seem part of a primitive, pagan world where superstition, fostered by Salvatore’s wryly no-nonsense mother Fortunata (Aurora Quattrocchi), controls daily actions.

Against his mother’s wishes, Salvatore decides they must emigrate to America. He sells his livestock, obtaining shoes (probably his first pair), cloaks and hats for himself, Angelo and mute younger son Pietro (Filippo Pucillo). Along with villagers Rita (Federica de Cola) and Rosa (Isabella Ragonese), promised to unmarried men in America, they set off for a Sicilian coastal city where the ship awaits.

Crialese details their first journey from village to city, which entails a monumental leap from the familiar, earthy world they know to the grey-stoned claustrophobic scrabble of the urban locale, as foreign to them as anything in another country.

Incongruously standing among them is Lucy (Charlotte Gainsbourg), dressed in bourgeois clothes in contrast to the peasant garb of others, and speaking English to boot. Crialese leaves her background a mystery but makes it clear that she’s willing to use her feminine charms to get on that ship and get to America.

A terrific shot of the parted crowds as the ship pulls out begins the next phase of the journey. Squeezed into restrictive bunks with little light and no privacy, Salvatore good-naturedly protects Lucy from verbal barbs.

The approach to Ellis Island is covered in fog (reminiscent of Fellini’s “And the Ship Sails On”), preventing the passengers, now dressed in their regional finery, from seeing the New World. Immediately upon arrival, they’re subjected to a series of tests, both medical and social, to assess their worthiness to go through the “Golden Door” to the other side.

For the immigrants America was a land of miracles, and since Crialese stops the drama literally at the exit portals of Ellis Island, disillusionment never takes hold. Instead, their early excitement is conveyed through doctored photo-postcards sent to the Old World depicting impossibly large vegetables, and coins growing on trees. Fantasy sequences are layered in with Salvatore imagining enormous olives and a river of milk (reappearing as a lovely final image).

There’s a last minute misstep when the mute Pietro speaks, and an argument with immigration officials feels too scripted, especially when everything else seems so genuine. Gainsbourg’s character is never given any motivation, and her performance feels equally, perhaps appropriately, illusory. Amato (who also played papa to Casisa and Pucillo in “Respiro”) charmingly captures Salvatore’s openness and innocence without making him into some silly bumpkin, and Quattrocchi is magnetic in all her scenes.

Claire Denis’ regular d.p. Agnes Godard does her usual splendid work in lensing the visual riches, from Sicilian landscapes to the corral-like bins of Ellis Island. Music is generally unobtrusive, though two incongruous Nina Simone songs (“Sinnerman” and “Feeling Good”) have a jarring effect that adds little to the pic’s intentions.

Golden Door

Italy-France

Production: A 01 Distribuzione release (in Italy) of a Memento Films Production (France)/Titti Films, Respiro (Italy)/ARTE France Cinema production, in collaboration with Rai Cinema and with the participation of Canal Plus. (International sales: Wild Bunch, Paris.) Produced by Alexandre Mallet-Guy, Fabrizio Mosca, Emanuele Crialese. Executive producers, Bernard Bouix, Tommaso Calevi. Directed, written by Emanuele Crialese.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Agnes Godard; editor, Maryline Monthieux; music, Antonio Castrignano; production designer, Carlos Conti; costume designer, Mariano Tufano; sound (Dolby SR Digital), Pierre-Yves Lavoue; assistant directors, Nicolas Cambois, Emiliano Torres. Reviewed at Venice Film Festival (competing), Sept. 8, 2006. (Also in Toronto Film Festival -- Special Presentations.) Running time: 117 MIN.

With: Lucy - Charlotte Gainsbourg Salvatore - Vincenzo Amato Donna Fortunata - Aurora Quattrocchi Angelo - Francesco Casisa Pietro - Filippo Pucillo Rita - Federica de Cola Rosa - Isabella RagoneseWith: Vincent Schiavelli, Massimo Laguardia, Filippo Luna, Andrea Prodan, Ernesto Mahieux. (Sicilian dialect, Italian and English dialogue)

More Film

  • I Lost My Body Oscar Nominated

    Cannes' Critics' Week To Be Hosted in Revamped Venue

    Critics’ Week, the strand dedicated to first and second films which runs along side the Cannes Film Festival, will be hosted in a revamped venue starting this year for the 59th edition. The Miramar theater, where films and shorts selected for Critics’ Week are being screened, is being completely remodelled by the city of Cannes, [...]

  • comp

    Berlin: ‘Euphoria’s' Bobbi Salvor Menuez Joins Cast of Kuba Czekaj’s English Debut (EXCLUSIVE)

    Bobbi Salvör Menuez (HBO’s “Euphoria,” “Under the Silver Lake”) has joined an international cast for “Lipstick on the Glass,” the English-language debut of acclaimed Polish director Kuba Czekaj (“Baby Bump”), Variety has learned exclusively. Pic will star Agnieszka Podsiadlik (“Mug”), who previously collaborated with Czekaj on Berlin player “The Erlprince.” The international cast includes Menuez [...]

  • Martin Margiela

    Oscilloscope Swoops for U.S. Rights to Martin Margiela Feature Doc From Dogwoof (EXCLUSIVE)

    Oscilloscope has swooped for U.S. rights to a feature documentary on mysterious fashion designer Martin Margiela from doc specialist Dogwoof. The elusive Belgian designer, considered the “Banksy of fashion” because he never appears in public, is known for rising in the ranks from Jean Paul Gaultier’s assistant to creative director at Hermes and ultimately to an [...]

  • Goldie Review

    'Goldie': Film Review

    Slick Woods plays the titular streetwise 18-year-old New Yorker in “Goldie,” a character who’s constantly running toward, or away, from things — a life of perpetual motion that doesn’t actually get her anywhere. In the confident hands of Dutch writer-director Sam de Jong, Goldie’s story is one of big dreams and harsh realities, and the [...]

  • Charades Scores Flurry of Sales Across

    Charades Scores Flurry of Sales Across Prestige Animation Slate (EXCLUSIVE)

    Charades, the Paris-based sales company behind the Oscar-nominated “I Lost My Body” and “Mirai,” has closed a raft of deals on high-profile animated features, including “Little Nicholas” and “Marona’s Fantastic Tale.” Anca Damian’s “Marona’s Fantastic Tale,” which world premiered in competition at last year’s Annecy Film Festival and was nominated at the European Film Awards, [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    Federation Entertainment Acquires Alejandro Amenabar’s ‘Thesis’ for Series Adaptation (EXCLUSIVE)

    Paris and Los Angeles-based Federation Entertainment has acquired the TV format and remake rights to Alejandro Amenábar’s debut feature, “Thesis.” It’s a prime example of the value of key older movie titles from standout younger foreign-language auteurs. Producer of “The Bureau,” “Marseille,” “Bad Banks” and “Hostages,” Federation Entertainment will produce a drama series based on [...]

  • European Film Market Berlinale Berlin Film

    Berlin: NL Film, Hupe Film Board 'Life Through a Dead Man's Eyes' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Amsterdam-based NL Film and Hupe Film in Cologne have boarded Jo Baier’s upcoming Nazi war criminal horror thriller “Life Through a Dead Man’s Eyes.” The companies join co-producers Films in Motion (FIM), the Berlin-based shingle run by American producer René Asch, and Angelika Mohr’s Morefilms in Munich, which is also handling world sales. German thesps [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content