1920. In search of a new start and the American dream, Ewa Cybulski and her sister Magda sail to New York from their native Poland. When they reach Ellis Island, doctors discover that Magda is ill, and the two women are separated. Ewa is released onto the mean streets of Manhattan while her sister is quarantined. Alone, with nowhere to turn and desperate to reunite with Magda, she quickly falls prey to Bruno, a charming but wicked man who takes her in and forces her into prostitution. And then one day, Ewa encounters Bruno’s cousin, the debonair magician Orlando. He sweeps Ewa off her feet and quickly becomes her only chance to escape the nightmare in which she finds herself. —Wild Bunch
Bio: Writer/director James Gray made his first film Little Odessa (1994) at the age of twenty-four. The film, which starred Tim Roth, Edward Furlong, Vanessa Redgrave and ‘Maximillian Schell’, received critical acclaim and was the winner of the Venice Film Festival’s prestigious Silver Lion Award in 1994.
Miramax Films released James Gray’s second feature, The Yards (2000) starring Mark Wahlberg, Joaquin Phoenix, Faye Dunaway, Ellen Burstyn, Charlize Theron and James Caan in fall of 2000. The film was selected for official competition at the 2000 Cannes International Film Festival. Prior to ‘The Yards’ and ‘Little Odessa’, Gray attended film school at the University of Southern California. It was there that his student film Cowboys and Angels was first seen by producer Paul Webster, who encouraged Gray to write his first feature script.
As a child growing up in Queens, New York, Gray aspired to be a painter. However, when introduced in his early teenage years to the works… read more
Corrupted souls fight for redemption the whole film. They learn how to forgive, as they are forgiven by their god - through confession, through penitence, they reconciliate, and the movie, in its most powerful scene, reaches a level of exploration of a character we'd never seen. Ewa knows the sin that will echo until the last shot, when a small gap of regeneration is finally possible. Religious experience.
"The Immigrant" is a picture with no balls. Ewa (the protagonist) is just a lame, innocent, all pure orphan chick who arrives in America dreaming of wonderland. She finds a corrupted society (and that's the subtext I liked the most) and tries to avoid being morally corrupted. She fails. Even the doubts we had about her moral behaviour on the ship are cleared out by her confession (and so she loses density and ambiguity). And everytime she is "corrupted" on the shots, Gray represents a kind of soft porn version of the events (WTF?, she prostitutes herself for a young boy?? I mean, that doesn't even count...). Ewa, no matter what, always remains pure in the eyes of the spectator. So she becomes boring, predictable and annoying, like most of Bresson's characters (especially the stupid donkey Balthasar - which is one of the most stupid pictures that I've watched). I enjoyed the mood of the picture: it was very dream-like, the ellipsis being moduled by the sleep of the protagonist, and there was a recurrent use of magic tricks, illusions, reflexes by mirrors or water and even a dream - which is horribly shot and edited btw - that intensified this oniric atmosphere. That atmosphere eventually becomes, by the end of the picture, increasingly religious and esoteric. I have to admit that the last shot is amazing, but it doesn't contain half the visual and emotional strenght that it would contain had the picture been different. I think that the movie tries to be too many things at the same time (a parable about a corrupted and decadent America, a tale of redemption of several lost and somehow doomed characters, a pessimistic representation of love and general social relationships - and in this aspect, Gray always reminds me of Dostoievski - and a quite obvious and simplistic study of family as the core of every person). It fails in all of them, because none of them has enough density. Watching "The Immigrant" was a painful experience because I was thinking to myself how easily it could have been a great movie. Marion Cotillard is not Falconetti or perhaps Gray's vision was just not matured enough. The protagonist is just to fucking cute for a character on a picture about moral corruption. I don't think this is humanism. I think it's naiveté. Gray's worst picture. And I really think that "We Own the Night" and "Two Lovers" are magnificent.
The death of the American dream. It operates in a religious and sacred higher plane of existence - maybe in the same dimension as the bressonian grace - I’ve never seen before in any of his works. There’s some kind of magical illusion in the film’s progression that is replicated by its action and produces a mesmerizing and moving effect over the audience. The whole cinema fits in that last shot and it will haunt my memory for decades. Gray has a tremendous love for humanity. That’s all I really can say.
Though "The Immigrant" is one of the best pictures of the year, it is still a bit of a let down: Gray creates a central character that owes too much to Bresson and whose emotional strength is lost in her own impotence. He even has to clear the doubts we had about her moral behaviour on the ship to America. It is the character of Joaquin Phoenix that saves the picture: he's the bad guy, but it's him we want to redeem.
Apichatpong’s new site, The Seventh Art Issue #15, trailers for Scorsese & Gray, Buster Keaton in Canada, and more.
Flashes of Mitchum while watching Phoenix.
An in-depth interview with James Gray about his new film, The Immigrant.
Adam Cook & Daniel Kasman discuss James Gray’s The Immigrant, a departure in many ways for one of America’s great contemporary filmmakers.
Alexey Balabanov passes, details on Hayao Miyazaki’s latest film, Spielberg and Scorsese discuss “the lightness of touch”, and more…
As the 2013 Cannes Film Festival gets underway: a poster round-up of the films in competition.
The 66th Cannes Film Festival has announced the lineup for the Official Competition.
Lots of news, photos by Patrick Swirc, a trio of interviews featuring Abel Ferrara, Ernst Karel and Lewis Klahr & more.
James Gray tries his hand at directing a commercial with this ad for Martell.
Film Comment’s best of the year, Raya Martin & Mark Peranson in Mexico, James Gray on American cinema, and an unexpected Guillaume sighting.
Jordan Mintzer’s collection of interviews is an indispensable source of insight into one of today’s best American filmmakers.
La Furia Umana is moving to print, Cimino presents a restored Heaven’s Gate and Phil Coldiron writes on 16mm in the digital age.