Friday, 8 February 2013

America, America (1963)

America, America is Elia Kazan's personal favourite of his own films. The reason for this is it is clearly an extraordinarily personal film for Kazan. The film is the true story of how Kazan's uncle made it to America. America, America is about the struggle he went through to get to the place of his dreams. Stating that he succeeded is in no way a spoiler as the first line of America, America is "My name is Elias Kazan, I am a Turk by Birth, Greek by origin and American because my uncle made a trip." America, America

America, America was originally very well received  It was nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay and Bet Art Direction (which it won) at the Academy Awards. However, over time the film's reputation has slightly decreased in quality. Perhaps this is due to the now considered 'wooden' acting. Or, it could be due to the fact that Elia Kazan failed to show flaws in any of the characters of his family. All of that will be discussed later. America, America  currently holds a 67% on Rotten Tomatoes (a score that is just over being "fresh"). However it is still highly regarded on IMDb (Internet Movie Database), where is currently has a 7.7.

America, America's cast is completely unknown. There were some talented actors, and some un-talented actors in the crew. But they were all unheard of. After the film was released there was lots of talk for a future career for Stathis Giallelis. Have you heard of him? If it weren't for this film, I certainly would not have. As I wrote earlier, this film is now considered somewhat... laughable. A portion of that is due to the wooden acting.

Elia Kazan narrates at the very opening of the film that the reason for his American nationality is because of his uncle. That is the basis for America, America. His uncle, Stavros lived in Anatolia. After a long Stavros decided he'd had enough of his miserable life. For a long time he'd dreamed of America, and now it was time to go there.

Stavros embarks on his journey, only to find that matters are more difficult that he believed. At one point he retires into the life of a wealthy newly-wed only to find that he is not ready to abandon his dream.

America, America is the opposite of subtle. It is perhaps the most blunt melodrama Kazan ever brought us.

I first logged America, America as a 8.5/10. A short amount of time later I was staring at a film that I would rate 6/10. Once you've cracked America, America's outer layer, you find that the goo oozes from the inner pustule - and you find a rather large mess upon your hand.

I saw America, America nine days from when I wrote this very sentence, and I can tell you now: there are several moments in the film that have escaped my mind. I see America, America as a film in chapters. This is a reasonable concept considering the film spawns a very long length of time. It is a story that twists and turns, where characters progress and jump backwards. I cannot stand how people express that that is not a problem of the film considering its a true story. "The film is a true story, therefor any problems with the story or script do not count considering the fact that it is a true story" is most likely the most ludicrous opinion the human race has adopted into consideration. It takes more than text stating 'a true story' to make me believe in your film. With that point placed into focus, America, America suffers. Elia Kazan spent time paying homage to his family that he forgot to focus on crafting a well-built story.

The entire deal behind America, America is Elia Kazan giving himself a big hug. The heroes (Kazan's family members) are written perfectly. They are innocent and brave. They are victims of such misfortune and never do they crack. I highly doubt that anyone who is a victim mistreatment every single day of their life would still be so perfect. As well, these characters (especially Kazan's uncle, Stavros) are written terribly. They speak like every single poorly written character we've seen in the cinema for decades and decades.

Perhaps it is a large portion of  the poor writing that makes America, America so wooden. However, another major factor is the emotionless performances from the array of unknown performers. These actors act as if their characters deserve to elicit our sympathy when really, how are we intended to sympathize a group of people whose expression never changes? Why should I care about a group of people who barely appear human?

In approaching America, America I figured that my main problem with the film would be the "flag-waving" factor of promoting America. I was wrong. That was without a doubt the most emotional and well done aspect of the film. At the end of the film, Stavros arrives in America. It appears to be very rundown but it is  Stavros' haven. In exiting the immigration office, he trip and falls on the steps leading out. A man steps out and yells at him to get off the ground. He does not notice, because he is distracted by America. To me, Kazan was trying to say that America did save his family, but he does comment on how harsh the city is. To me, this is Kazan's most complicated message. It is a film that spends the entire film promoting the American country... when really it's doing the opposite.

America, America
Directed by Elia Kazan
Starring: Stathis Giallelis, Frank Wolff and Harry Davis
6/10 (C-)

1. Baby Doll
2. Panic in the Streets
3. Splendor in the Grass
4. The Last Tycoon
5. Boomerang!
6. Viva Zapata!
7. Pinky
8. Wild River
9. America, America
10. The Arrangement

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