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Laramie Movie Scope:
Golden Door (Nuovomondo)

A quiet look at immigrating to America

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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May 1, 2008 -- This ultra slow-moving Italian film about a Sicilian family, the Mancusos, who journey to America to seek the promised land, is almost devoid of drama, but it has a lot to say about the current immigration debate in the U.S. and other countries. Filmed like a documentary, the story opens with a breathtaking ascent of a mountain by two men of the Mancuso family, barefoot and holding rocks in their mouths. The widowed Salvatore Mancuso (played by Vincenzo Amato) and his son are dirt poor and desperate. They are looking for answers. They are also looking for a way out. They reach the summit and deposit their rocks at the foot of a cross, and wait for divine guidance. Another son, the mute Pietro (Filippo Pucillo) arrives soon after with photos of giant vegetables from America. God has spoken, the family sells its meager possessions and heads off to the United States. The film is set during the early 20th Century.

The film's story is advanced using very little dialog. The film's cinematography by Agnès Godard is breathtaking at times, especially early on during exterior scenes. The family ends up with several additional people in their party, a couple of mail order brides and an English woman, Lucy Reed (Charlotte Gainsbourg) who is looking for at least a temporary husband so she can gain entry into the United States. The courtship between Salvatore and Lucy is both very formal and restrained to the point of being almost non-existent. Their marriage vows are spoken at Ellis Island, along with the mail order couples and others. The immigrant applicants are poked and prodded, given verbal and manual intelligence tests and physical examinations. At one point, the family's matriarch, Fortunata Mancuso (Aurora Quattrocchi) questions the authority of the Americans to split up her family. She asks if the Americans think they are gods. In the end, the family is split up with Fortunata and Pietro being declared unfit for entry into the United States. The gods have spoken. The interior shots at Ellis Island are very impressive, as are the Ellis Island sets.

Now, about 100 years later, the descendants of those same immigrants are demonizing the immigrants from Mexico and South America as being unfit for entry into the United States. New immigration policies are splitting up immigrant families. It seems that illegal immigrants into the United States are about the only ones aware that the United States is made up mostly of immigrants and descendants of immigrants. Times change, but people don't. This film rates a C+. P.S. This was one of the last films made by the well-known actor and gourmet cook Vincent Schiavelli (“Ghost”) who plays a marriage broker in this film.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in video and/or DVD format, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2008 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)