Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
J.A.A. Purves

The Immigrant (2013)

Recommended Posts

Links to: Two Lovers

Can't find A&F links to Little Odessa, The Yards or We Own the Night. Not many James Gray fans around here?

According to Hitflix, it looks like Low Life is going to star Jeremy Renner, Marion Cotillard, and Joaquin Phoenix.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Can Joaquin be "brought back?" Good thing he has talent that may be able to overshadow that last farce. I guess we'll see if Joaquin is actually "Still here."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

From IndieWire -

... Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Jeremy Renner and Marion Cotillard, the project marks the first period piece for the director, but it's another New York City tale, chronicling the journey of a Polish immigrant (Cotillard) who becomes caught between a cabaret owner/pimp (Phoenix) and a magician who wants to save her (Renner). Richard Brody at The New Yorker managed to parse the paywalled article, and once again, the deeply thoughtful and intelligent Gray is touching upon a variety of fascinating influences both aesthetically and thematically for the film.

Cinematographer Darius Khondji notes that the photographs by the Italian architect Carlo Mollino along with the tenor of Robert Bresson's "Diary of a Country Priest" are serving as the template for “the perfect texture for filming the grain of the skin, and the kind of lighting which would give the ensemble a sort of religious aspect.” Paintings by Everett Shinn and George Bellows are also reference points for the look of the film. But while his previous efforts are indebted to Italian neo-realist films, the author of the Liberation article notes that this time around, Gray is visually attempting "to distance himself from the formal realism of his previous films in order to seek out the element of myth" ...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It was originally called Lowlife:

http://blogs.indiewire.com/theplaylist/surprise-telluride-unveils-quick-sneak-peek-of-james-grays-nightingale-starring-marion-cotillard-joaquin-phoenix-20120902

James Gray's films are always a bit of a downer, but I'm looking forward to this - primarily for Marion Cotillard, who's just an incredible actress and perfectly suited to tragedy... (Mind, I don't know this is a tragedy, but who's going to bet against it?)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Senses of Cinema:

James Gray’s The Immigrant was the most unequivocally sublime experience of this year’s festival; for this writer, at least, seeing it in the festival palace’s Grand Théâtre Lumière was akin to Caspar David Friedrich encountering the chalk cliffs of Rügen. This was, however, by no means an opinion universally shared by Cannes’ temperamental press corps. The criticisms were varied – the characters were not believable, the storyline was forced and manipulative, the pace was too languorous – but for me such cavils were immaterial faced with the palpable emotions emanating from the screen. When it comes down to it, what such opprobrium amounts to is a deep-seated fear of melodrama, as if this disreputable genre in and of itself disqualified any work from artistic greatness. To his credit, Gray evinces no such fear, and wades into histrionic waters with as much resolve here as he did with 2008’s magisterial Two Lovers. With The Immigrant, he departs from his favoured pays natal of Brighton Beach, and crosses the East River into Manhattan. But the film is no less personal for Gray, with the subject matter substantially derived from the New York Eastern European immigrant milieu of his grandparents. It is 1921, and Marion Cotillard’s Ewa has arrived in Ellis Island from Poland with her sister. Their fate, however, seems doomed from the start: the latter’s consumption results in her mandatory quarantine, while Ewa is threatened with deportation for succumbing to “loose morals” during the ocean voyage. Ewa’s seeming rescue at the hands of Bruno, incarnated by a Joaquin Phoenix seething with intensity, serves only to realise the characterisation made of her by the immigration officials, as the pimp co-opts her into his Blue Angel-style vaudeville routine. Ewa makes sustained efforts to break free of Bruno’s tenacious grip – with his cousin, “Orlando the Magician” (Jeremy Renner), pledging to whisk her away to California ...

 

In Gray’s bid to join the titans of melodrama – Griffith, Mizoguchi, Sirk – this serpentine narrative has about as much importance as it did for their masterpieces: which is to say, not much at all. Far more crucial is his ability to steer the atmosphere and mood of the film, his intuition for aligning its visual and emotional tonalities, and in this he is virtually without peer in contemporary filmmaking. The imposing, visual effect-laden recreations of the early 20th-century Lower East Side will inevitably recall The Godfather and Once Upon a Time in America, but Darius Khondji’s amber-hued photography gives them a unique texture. The palette was inspired, according to the director, by autochrome images from the period, and in this regard the shots of Ellis Island’s tragedy-imbued detention centre are particularly evocative. The film’s strongest trump card, however, is Gray’s mastery of mise en scène, his assured control over shot composition, framing and camera placement, and the languid ease with which he transitions from one scene to the next. This talent places Gray firmly in the tradition of Hollywood classicism, whose aesthetic qualities were only given adequate treatment by French critics in the 1950s. It is small wonder, then, that Gray’s most enthusiastic supporters predominantly hail from the Hexagon, while outre-Atlantique he is met with a mixture of bemusement and disdain. For one of the genuine artists with a fiercely individual vision to have arisen from US cinema in the last twenty years, this lack of critical appreciation in his home country is a crying injustice.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I caught up with this film today and I'd highly recommend this.There's an interesting religious thread that runs through the film. It's not something that permeates every scene, but it does show up at key points and leads to a pretty powerful theological conclusion in the final act that I found beautiful. 

 

I'll probably have a more extensive review up at some point.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Wow, thanks for that, James. I don't think I've read any indication of theological content in this film in the reviews I've seen, so I'm heartened. 

 

I'm planning to see the film tomorrow night.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Note for everyone: like Gray's other films, this one goes by slowly.  You may even begin to feel that the pure sadness and desolation of it all is overwrought, taking too long, spending for too much time on what can only end hopelessly.

 

I think the ending may surprise you.  It surprised me.  I did not expect that.  Also, do not flirt with reading any spoilers for this film.  Also, there are moments when the dialogue in the film shifts into subtitles.  Pay attention when this happens.

 

If I were to follow imdb, then this would work its way into my top 10 for 2013.  With this fifth addition, James Gray's body of work just grew much stronger (and I already thought it was impressively good).

 

The Gray/Phoenix collaborative director/actor relationship is now rivaling any other, whether it's Scorsese/De Niro, Howard/Hanks, Burton/Depp or Scorsese/DiCaprio.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

James is on to something, and I don't understand why I haven't read more about the spiritual angle in The Immigrant from the few critics who usually pick up on that sort of thing. Beyond the film's impeccable visuals and grand performances from all three leads, the film presents a spiritual struggle for the soul of its protagonist. It's not allegory -- the devil character isn't beyond hope, the angelic character does things that aren't exactly Christ-like, and the main character may be stronger, spiritually, than either man vying for her soul/affection. But the spirituality in the film is explicit. It's there in the dialogue, over and over again, although its emergence in Ewa is gradual in the film, becoming dominant toward the film's conclusion. 

 

Ah, the conclusion. It struck me as abrupt. That was my only sticking point with The Immigrant, although a second viewing might allay those concerns.

 

This moves to the top of my 2014 list of films. Yeah, yeah: I know IMDB has it as a 2013 film. Don't get me started! 

 

EDIT: Just now seeing Jeremy's post, which went up as I was composing mine, I think. 

Edited by Christian

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Interesting Q&A with Andrew O'Hehir and James Gray, in which the filmmaker claims the story is about "co-dependence," a term I tried to wrap my head around 20-plus years ago but couldn't ever quite pin down. The idea that the film might be about religious faith is dismissed out of hand. 

 

There aren't specific SPOILERS ahead, but there is discussion of the ending that might better be read after seeing the film. YOU'VE BEEN WARNED.

 

That confession scene, in which Marion’s character confesses her sins and gets counseling, strikes me as the heart of the movie. It’s a striking evocation of the Catholic faith in action, which is funny coming from you, but it goes well beyond that. There’s a spirituality in that moment – and that’s a term I usually avoid – something ineffable and uncategorizable that really changes the movie. It isn’t really about religious faith at all, but if you had told me right after seeing that that I needed to go back to church and get right after 30 years, I’d probably have done it.

 

For me it’s the best scene in the film because there’s two things going on: She’s confessing but at the same time he’s giving her advice, which may be good advice. She says she can’t take the advice, because of that perverse codependency. She knows she needs Joaquin’s character, and you know what? She does. Because in the end, she gets what she wants.

 

Right, she makes her own spiritual path, independent of religion, after that. But let me also note that she looks like the Virgin Mary in that scene.

 

That’s the idea! A lot of paintings were stolen for that. When she walks into the confessional, turns and looks into the camera? That’s totally ripped off from Bresson’s “Diary of a Country Priest.” There’s a lot of rip-off there.

Edited by Christian

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Interesting find. Good stuff there. Hope this gets some more people interested in seeing the film. Hoping this doesn't slip through the cracks because it's something I'd like to get some other people's reactions to. I feel like I need to see it again before I get a good grip on how I feel about it fully, but that won't happen until it comes out on home video. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Interesting Q&A with Andrew O'Hehir and James Gray ... The idea that the film might be about religious faith is dismissed out of hand.

Well, by O'Hehir, not by Gray.

The longer this film sits with me, the more powerful it grows in retrospect.

Also, that last shot was amazing.

 

Also, Christopher Spelman is going to be a musical composer to keep track of.

Also, I'm trying to decide how to discuss what happens at the end without giving away spoilers. This is one of those films I think you really should see without knowing what is going to happen. It was more powerful to me because I didn't know what was going to happen. I guessed that the story was going to go somewhere two different times, and then it didn't.

 

Now that I think about it, while the film itself isn't really about religious faith, its main character's religious faith is a major theme in the story.  And what she does with it affects those around her.  In fact, it was pretty dirty and obviously sacrilegious of Bruno to eavesdrop on Ewa's confession.  He's manipulated her into what she is doing now.  But, that is really scene that changes him, isn't it?  He decides that he is a sinner at the end of that one scene.  It is after that scene that he starts sacrificing himself for her and she starts to forgive him.  Then she tells her aunt that he is lost and he's suffering for her.  Then he has his confession scene, which I thought was the most powerful moment in the film.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm still in that place of letting the film sink in. I think, like you said, it didn't always go where I expected it to go so I think there was that disorientation of what happened that I'm still thinking about it and not quite pulling back all the layers yet.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'll second everything Jeremy said. For me, though, the most surprising moment in the film was the first of two times when we hear John Tavener's Funeral Canticle, recognizable from The Tree of Life. That choice must mean something.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Bret Easton Ellis has a conversation with James Gray on his podcast. I stress 'conversation' rather than 'interview', because it's rather rambling and Ellis actually talks more than Gray (which is probably a good reflection of their personalities). 

 

They don't really dig as deeply into The Immigrant as I was hoping - topic starting at 41:00 - and there's not really anything revelatory in the conversation, but it's a bit different from the typical promotional interview, and might be worth a listen for anyone interested in Gray.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In the context of their conversation, I think I understand O'Hehir's comment about the confession scene not being about religious faith, but the entire film is such a moving portrait of grace within an explicitly religious world.

 

Man, this film . . .

Edited by Darren H

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Another thing, with all the current talk that is so popular about films lacking strong, intelligent and developed female characters in film, this film arguably offers an answer to the problem.  Here is a film that gives a woman a powerful lead role in a way that is NOT just watching her kill a whole bunch of monsters or bad guys while, of course, also wearing skimpy attire.

 

Ewa may seem naive and innocent towards the beginning of the film, but her character turns out to be much deeper and stronger than your first impression of her.  Not only that, but even her possible naivety and innocence are not necessarily played as weaknesses that she needs to lose in order to grow.  It is entirely possible that the film intends even her innocence to be another strength.

 

Yet I have seen not a single review mentioning this fact.  Here is a very strong film with a very strong female lead in a Hollywood setting where many critics often complain that such a thing is too rare.  But, as far as I can tell, this seems to have been ignored.  Of course, she is a strong lead who also happens to be a devout Catholic.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That's a great point, Jeremy, and it helps make sense of the very strange connection I kept making while watching the film last night: The Immigrant reminds me very much of Borzage melodramas (this film is straight out of the late-silent era) and of one of my other favorite films of the past decade, Bonello's House of Tolerance. Both share the same affection and admiration for their heroines.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have to see this on the big screen at least once more before it leaves town. I was always at a bit of an emotional distance the first time because I was too busy calculating plot twists and questioning characters' motivations. Now that I know how everything resolves, I suspect I'll be an emotional wreck from the opening frames.

Edited by Darren H

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Do it. I saw The Immigrant a second time Saturday morning. I wasn't an emotional wreck, exactly, but I had to wipe away a few tears during the final scene

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Also, I'm curious to know what people who have seen the film think of the character of Emil, in terms of his function in the story. I've read criticism of Renner and his character from those who are lukewarm toward The Immigrant, but as strong as the Ewa/Bruno dynamic is during the first half, the film doesn't really elevate for me until Emil shows up. I like how Emil presents hope for Ewa after all the horrid experiences she has on her way to, and once in, America. The movie's view of America is intensely negative until Emil comes along. But he's not purity and goodness -- no, he has a checkered history, and no certainty that his future will be as full of promise as he would have Ewa believe. Given

his sudden and shocking exit

, what would you say Emil's function is in The Immigrant? Are we supposed to see him as he wants Ewa to see him? Is he to be viewed skeptically, but just to a lesser degree than we view Bruno? Ultimately, the story is about

Ewa and Bruno

, so where does that leave Emil? How does he fit?

Edited by Christian

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...