I’ll be honest – I didn’t know what to expect going into this film and I sure as heck didn’t get anything close to what I expected. This film about an Italian family immigrating to America comes to us from a joint French and Italian effort, so obviously things are bound to get interesting. And weird.
The film was written and directed by celebrated filmmaker Emanuele Crialese and this DVD was presented by Italian Martin Scorsese, who also provides an introduction to the film. The story itself follows the journey of the Mancuso’s, an Old World Italian family seeking out a new life in the America they only dream exists, the one with rivers of milk, hens the size of donkeys, and carrots big enough to float on. You’ll see. The family is lead by patriarch Salvatore (Vincenzo Amato) and with him are his two sons, one a possible deaf mute and the other a bit of a closet pervert. Also making the journey is his very old school mother.
The story follows the odd journey which alternates from being sad or frightening to amusing and eclectic. Along the way they must pass a battery of physical tests to enter America and survive a trans-Atlantic boat commute. Throw into the mix the attractive Luce ( Charlotte Gainsbourg) and you’ve got the makings of a strange journey and a strange love.
The film itself is beautifully shot, the cinematography is excellent. The acting, especially from lead Vincenzo Amato, is top notch. His performance kept me riveted even while the movie started to drag. The film is, at times, uneven and likes to spin off into weird directions and daydreams that catch you off guard each and every time it happens. The culture of Old World Italy can also be glaringly odd to American tastes, even to this Italian American who knows whats going on. Many of the beginning jokes and situations will be lost on the international audience. Overall this film will probably fail to attract many people who aren’t interested in it, and its at times meandering story telling style may threaten to lose those who do watch it. I’m sure there is an ample audience that will enjoy this film and it is generally well received. I found myself enjoying for the most part, despite the aforementioned drags. The beginning was especially slow, however once Ellis Island is reached the movie manages to introduce firm tension that will keep you on seats edge. And then another touch of weirdness that makes you shake your head.
The DVD is well presented with a beautiful menu. It is simple and easy to navigate all the while keeping you entertained and enraptured should you choose to watch it. Other DVD designers should take note – this is good design. Extremely functional, yet interesting. The DVD features are sparse, offering up the Scorsese introduction and a making of. Technically, everything with the DVD is fine.
In closing, this film is a tough sell to many people. If you enjoy it, I believe you will enjoy it immensely, though you may find yourself scratching your head from time to time. The pure oddity of it can be offsetting to the viewer, though overcoming that I found myself enjoying the film overall. I can not stress enough that this film is not for everyone though, so you shouldn’t be gifting it around. Unless, that is, your family consists of recent immigrants, who may find the film more interesting than most. All in all, a wonderfully shot and interestingly delivered story that meanders and slows before drawing you in. If you like the character of Salvatore, who was wonderfully acted, I believe you’ll stick with and enjoy the film. If you don’t, you’ll be snoozing by minute fifteen.