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Set at the beginning of the 20th century we travel to impoverished Sicily where we meet Salvatore (Vincezo Amato - `Respiro') and his family. They are struggling to survive and like a lot of fellow Europeans he is considering going to the New World, which flows with milk and honey and money grows on trees. He has an elderly mother who doubles as some sort of healer, and two sons in the shape of Angelo and Pietro.

After a sign from on high they decide to go for it and head off to the ferry to get a third class ticket to America. This is where red headed siren Lucy Reed (Charlotte Gainsbourg) comes into the picture. She needs a man to get her through the tests at Ellis Island and she decides he is the one. Along the way there is a lot of social history and some well observed attention to detail.

Director Emanuele Crialese (`Respiro' and Terrafirma') also uses a lot of surrealist imagery to exemplify how the propaganda of the US was such a pull factor that really most of the émigrés could never have made a logical decision. There are oversized vegetables, coins in trees and falling from the skies and a river of milk.

This is a beautifully shot film with Sicily having an austere beauty and the filth and dirt being omnipresent until they reach New York. The immigration system is also done extremely well and the plight of these people is palpable. I really enjoyed this film but it won't be to everybody's taste as there is little action, no bedroom diversions and no overly dramatic occasions. Yet still it tells a story that thousands will have had to go through and there are no monuments to their sufferings or struggle so I think this film has a special place in the world of cinema. In Italian and a bit of English with good translations and a run time of 118 minutes - a film I can readily recommend.
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The Golden Door is a wonderful film, beautifully photographed and directed with a magical touch. The images stayed with me long after - the peasants in Sicily, the boat leaving the port for America and the myriad of faces of the new immigrants at Ellis Island. In a sense it could be seen as two films in one - the first part is the sad leaving of a homeland but tinged with optimism and the second part is the harsh reception for the Sicilians when they eventually arrive at Ellis Island. This makes clear that they really had entered into a quite new and different world.

It was particularly touching the way the illiterate Sicilians from a peasant background had so little comprehension of what the "ability tests" were all about - it showed a complete culture clash.

The acting is great. Vincenzo Amato as Salvatore made a very solid centre to the film but the whole cast was excellent.

OK, there were things I could criticise. I thought the character of Luce (Charlotte Gainsbourg) was too much of a mystery. How would a refined woman in 1913 find herself alone in Italy?

A lovely film, well worth seeing.
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on 14 December 2007
This is one of the best films this or any year. The photography, the characters, the scenery, the story and Ellis Island ...are all woven together by a master director.

The sound track ending with Nina Simone's Sinnerman is lovingly selected. Too bad it cannot be found on the net.

Hollywood: eat your heart out!
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on 31 December 2013
As the granddaughter of Polish immigrants (my grandmother immigrated to the US from Zamosc, Poland in 1917 when she was four years old), I grew up hearing stories about Ellis Island from my grandmother (who had quite a large collection of books on Ellis Island), and also read a number of novels and watched documentaries (Ellis Island) on the immigrant experience.

However, reading first-hand accounts of the events and seeing them brought to life on the big screen made quite a difference. Golden Door (released as New World in Italy) follows the Sicilian Mancuso family, headed by persnickety grandmother Fortunata, her son Salvatore, and his sons Angelo and Pietro. Salvatore is barely able to scratch a living from the rocky, unforgiving landscape (shown to perfection in haunting aerial shots), and after many false starts, begins to make arrangements to go to America. Fortunata has no desire to join them, and Pietro, a deaf-mute, identifies more closely with her. The first third of the film involves Salvatore's selling of his goods to finance the voyage, and the preparations that have to be made. Along the way, Salvatore meets the beautiful, mysterious Englishwoman Lucy, who is traveling in Sicily by herself and attempts to travel with the Mancusos.

The middle of the film chronicles the ocean steamship crossing, with its cramped, segregated male/female quarters, and a rough storm at sea. To be honest, the scenes of the living arrangements seemed too quiet from what I've read; when Lucy gets up at night, there's nary a peep (no young children on this ship, apparently). Also slightly disappointing was the fact that when they finally arrived in New York, there was no (standard) shot of the immigrants glimpsing the Statue of Liberty for the first time.

The final third deals with the Mancuso's fairly typical experience at Ellis Island, and this is where the film shines. Director Emanuele Crialese really did his homework on the battery of physical and psychological tests performed on prospective immigrants in order to determine their "fitness" for life in the United States, and it's slightly shocking by modern standards to see the humiliation that some were subjected to. The American Ellis Island staff in the film come off as cold and unconcerned, particularly with the heartbreaking situation of some of the "mail-order brides" forced into marriage after a dangerous ocean crossing. However, Crialese did include (brief) glimpses at other immigrants, including Eastern European Jewish, Middle Eastern, and other European countries. Small touches of wonder at their new situation are alternately funny and touching, such as immigrants scaling the frosted glass windows to look across the harbor, where they contemplate living in a skyscraper, or Salvatore's result of a block puzzle.

Crialese chose to shoot the film in Buenos Aires and personally chose all 700 extras, most of whom are descendants of Italian immigrants to Argentina. The scenery is effective, and the film was digitally colored to leach out bright hues, resulting in an appropriately washed-out, aged look (although not as garish as Tim Burton's use of digital coloring in Sweeny Todd). The Golden Door soundtrack includes folk songs, a hint of tango, and symphonic interludes, and works well with the visuals. An in-depth making-of features interviews in French and Italian (funny to hear the Italian lead Vincenzo Amato interviewing in French rather than his native Italian, but his French is quite good).

My only dislike of the film was the inserted "dream sequences" that featured hallucinations of giant vegetables and rivers of milk (the end sequence was downright creepy in an Andy Warhol kind of way). As Salvatore didn't strike me as lighthearted, these "hallucinations" come across as forced rather than a natural extension of his personality and took away from some of the gravity of the immigrant experience presented here.

Overall, this is a lushly realized look at the immigrant experience, including the many sacrifices and dangers along the way that are sometimes overlooked due to the romanticized view of the immigrant experience. Crialese has created a timeless tribute to the sacrifice of our grandparents who gave up everything (not just family living in the Old World, but often their language, culture, and customs) at the chance for a better life in America.
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on 17 February 2008
This is an interesting film, if only from a sociological point of view< and it is unfair to give it 1 out of five.

It deals with the trials and tribulations of a family of italian immigrants on their way to America.

It is also quite beautifully shot, with moments of visual poetry scattered here and there.

Not the best movie ever, but definitely watchable.
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on 14 January 2008
This beautifuly photographed film and its wonderful mixture of characters, carries you along from the very moment it starts, to its very poignant ending. A struggling Sicilian family scrape themselves together and head with the multitude for Statton Island and the Promised Land. Its a very human story with scenes that in the mind long after the final credits are rolling.
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on 20 September 2013
wanted to see this film for ages. Have seen it in Italian but wanted to view in English.
Good story line, Petralie is portrayed very well
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on 25 November 2013
i love this film, i love everything about this film, recommendable, dont miss it, specially if you are itaian.t hanks
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on 22 September 2015
Top service, with my highest recommendation!
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on 19 December 2007
i was greatly looking forward to seeing this highly rated film but was grossly disappointed. i won't bother you with a full critique of the film- which would necessarily be horribly long- but will say that apart from a handful of stunning cinematic passages the story, which should have been deeply touching, was shallow and i couldn't care less what happened to any of the characters.

i felt it was pretentiously directed and i felt sorry for the actors. Charlotte Gainsbourg is immensely talented and i squirmed at what she was given to work with. my feeling was that the director was making a self-consciously 'magical' film and i quickly tired of the laboured 'symbolism'. one unexpected and unintended pleasure was a few laughs at some very Borat-like moments.

if you love films for many reasons and can handle a bad story because it contains some stunning visual sequences then give it a go but if you want a more complete experience this time round really do give it a miss and ignore the hype by the pseudo artsy types.
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