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New York Cool - Interview

Vincenzo Amato and Emanuele Crialese of Golden Door (Nuovomondo)

Written by Frank J. Avella
Photo Credit Dave Alloca/Star Pix
(Opposite L-R: Emanuele Crialese and Vincenzo Amato)

Read Frank J. Avella's review of Golden Door (Nuovomondo)

 



Vincenzo Amato

Focus on Vincenzo Amato--Lead Actor in Golden Door (Nuovomondo)

Vincenzo Amato’s handsome and sexy matinee-idol looks are pretty well hidden in Nuovomondo (Golden Door), the terrific new film by Emanuele Crialese. Come to think of it, they were pretty well hidden in Crialese’s Respiro as well. Had I not had the pleasure of sitting down with the actor in person at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, I would have assumed he was the poor Sicilian peasant he usually portrays.

Quite the contrary, while he may be proud of his cine-peasant turns (and he should be), he is quite the cosmopolitan guy who speaks perfect English. And, in addition to acting, he’s quite the accomplished sculptor (working with steel) and has his own shop--in Manhattan! But refer to his leading a double life and Amato is quick to correct you. For him being creative is being creative, and there’s no extreme difference between the two.

Born in Sicily, Amato emigrated to the U.S. many years ago, but he used that experience to infuse the character of Salvatore Mancuso (which means left-handed in Italian) in Nuovomondo with an honesty not seen in many American features. He also did his share of homework, spending time with an old world Sicilian farmer to prep for the first portion of the film. And it paid off as his Salvatore felt so real to this reporter, I thought one of my great Uncles had come back from the dead!

Once he gets into character, Amato finds it fairly easy to go from sequence to sequence. He explained how the first days of shooting involved the Ellis Island scenes (in the final act of the film) so the actors who played his family members were forced to become instant relations. It worked wonderfully, though, because they were all supposed to be nervous and confused so the lack of bonding was an actual boon. Was that part of the director’s plan?

Well, it happens to be the third film Amato has made with writer/director Emanuele Crialese (Respiro and Crialese’s first feature, Once We Were Strangers). Both artists admit to having an intensely creative, sometimes volatile but always passionate relationship. “Emanuele gives me the freedom to explore and develop the character...and he would just give me a look, and I would know what he wanted.” The result is absolute magic onscreen.

Amato would love to one day work in the U.S. but up next it’s off to Rome where he will be portraying a jealous psychopath for a first-time, female director. That will be a refreshing change from his peasant portfolio, although no one makes the poor seem quite as alluring as when Amato dons the tattered rags and defining beret.



Golden Door (Nuovomondo)


Interview with Emanuele Crialese--Director of Golden Door (Nuovomondo)

Emanuele Crialese is one of the most promising new directors to emerge in recent years. A Roman, he studied film directing at New York University, graduating in 1995. Shortly thereafter, he made his first feature, Once We Were Strangers, which was an official Sundance selection. 2002 brought the much-celebrated, Respiro, which was a New Directors Selection at Lincoln Center and won the Cannes Critics’ Week Award.

His new film Golden Door (Nuovomondo) was Italy’s Best Foreign-Language Film entry last year and proves he’s a auteur force to be reckoned with. Note: The title, Nuovomondo, literally translated means “New World” but to avoid confusion with the Terrence Malick film, it was retitled (much to the disappointment of Crialese) to Golden Door.

I sat down with Crialese during this year’s Tribeca Film Festival where the film was being presented.

Frank J. Avella: I have to ask you about my favorite sequence in the film. Where the steamship is pulling out of harbor. It took my breath away.

Emanuele Crialese: I actually made the film around that image. I had a clear, easy image in my mind coming from a precise sensation I wanted to evoke. A sensation of land opening--one piece of land going to another.

Frank J. Avella: This film felt very personal. Why was it important for you to make it?

Emanuele Crialese: This film was in my mind since 1998, before Respiro. No one would finance it at the time. My wanting to make it has a lot to do with my personal experiences being an immigrant hoping to change your life in America. And I was fascinated by the postcard I saw (from early in the 20th century)...Propaganda already portraying America as the land of opportunity.

Frank J. Avella: There are very few Italian filmmakers who currently make films in Sicily, yet there are so many fascinating Sicilian stories to tell. Why do you feel you capture la Sicilia so accurately?

Emanuele Crialese: Because I am NOT Sicilian! (laughs) My ancestors are from there but I am Roman. I went back to Sicily after I went to New York and I felt rooted in the culture. I had a genetic memory of Sicily. It’s in the DNA...Sicilia is primitive. I don’t like the contemporary world. The brutality of the place wakes my curiosity. Sicilia is the beginning of our civilization...going back to the beginning...

Frank J. Avella: I noticed you worked with several of the same Respiro actors. Was Nuovomondo easy to write and cast?

Emanuele Crialese: I like to invent my characters and you can invent something good only if you know them well. In your head, when you are writing, the characters are like puppets. Then the actor is cast and you finally have a body and face. So you can write FOR the specific actor...the character inhabits the actor and vice versa.

Frank J. Avella: What is the directorial process like for you? Do you make changes as filming goes along or is the script followed religiously?

Emanuele Crialese: I do one month of rehearsal but we don’t really rehearse. I cook and we eat pasta. There’s no script present the first week. We just talk. I force everyone to communicate. Force them to play the idiots. Then I understand where to bring them.

Frank J. Avella: After three films together, do you and Amato have a working shorthand?

Emanuele Crialese: Yes. Vincenzo is clay I can just touch. Or I give him a look and he knows instinctively what I want. No need to waste time.

Frank J. Avella: Was blending the fantastical aspects of the film with the harsh realities always in your script plan?

Emanuele Crialese: There was even more of the fantastical in the original script. Then I realized I need not be indulgent. Audiences will appreciate it more, if it’s a rare occurrence.

Frank J. Avella: The character of Fortunata reminded me of my Zia Italia, a tough woman who sees no need to uproot herself and has no use for a nuovomondo. What was the inspiration for this character?

Emanuele Crialese: She is part me, part my grandmother, who says we live too fast today. And there’s a deep truth in that. She doesn’t like modernity. She’s very in touch with nature. She said we are destined to go to war because we are always losing touch with our environment. Fortunata doesn’t want to go to the new world but she goes KNOWING she will return to her home. She has a role there--curing people.

Frank J. Avella: Was it always your intent to not show the Mancuso family beyond Ellis Island?

Emanuele Crialese: Yes.

Frank J. Avella: In the sequel, what do you think happens to the family in the new world?

Emanuele Crialese: I would love to make a sequel that is different completely in tone. A comedy. Salvatore (Amato) drops Charlotte Gainsbourg because she can’t cook and he realized he can have many other women. The two brothers become silent film stars...

Frank J. Avella: I loved Respiro. What similarities do you see in that film and Nuovomondo?

Emanuele Crialese: I recognize myself in both films. In Respiro, I wanted to show the audience a peculiar point-of-view. The children of Nuovomondo can be seen as the characters in Respiro. Writing Nuovomondo made me discover Lampedusa (the town Respiro was filmed in). The same three principal male actors are used in both films. There are lost of connections.

Frank J. Avella: Who are your cinema inspirations?


Emanuele Crialese: Fellini is the genius of the geniuses. Then: Antonioni; Pasolini; DeSica; Malick; Scorsese; Coppola...there are fifty or sixty films I watch over and over again. I like Von Trier. He’s courageous always giving us a different version of things. And Ang Lee. The Ice Storm is a masterpiece at capturing the American people and he isn’t American.

Frank J. Avella: What is your next project?

Emanuele Crialese: I’m not sure. I’d like to do a love story. It takes time for me to decide and it’s a big commitment. I like to control everything. I’m every producer’s nightmare. I need to recover before I think about the future...recooperate from Nuovomondo which almost killed me!

 

 


 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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