Marion Cotillard in two clips from James Gray’s The Immigrant

Salon’s Andrew O’Hehir says, “it’s a magnificent drama with an immense emotional payoff, combining old-fashioned Hollywood storytelling and an auteurist, European-style sense of mystery.”

James Gray’s subtle and powerful melodrama “The Immigrant,” which premiered here [in Cannes] on Friday, is set in precisely the same period as “Gatsby” and just a few miles away, but its world and its frame of reference could hardly be more different. Gray is a fascinating figure in American film; he’s an old-school craftsman who makes mid-budget, adult-oriented dramas (“Two Lovers,” “We Own the Night,” “The Yards”), a niche that barely exists these days. As Gray made clear when I spoke to him after seeing the film, he fully intends this slow-burning 1920s tale about a vulnerable Polish immigrant (Marion Cotillard) and the pimp who exploits her (Joaquin Phoenix) to be m

ore than a period piece. (I’ll save my full conversation with Gray for another occasion.)

It doesn’t hurt that it’s built around two irresistible performances from genuine stars: As good as Phoenix was in “The Master,” this mendacious and tormented character may be the best role of his career. Gray has long been a Cannes favorite, and this should be the movie that wins him a major award here. His marketplace problem, on the other hand, remains the same as ever. “The Immigrant” may be a tad nuanced and understated for mainstream audiences, and it also doesn’t quite have the transgressive sizzle or show-offy qualities that create art-house hits.

…I can’t judge the quality of Cotillard’s Polish, but she has a severe, Joan of Arc luminosity as Ewa, a Polish Catholic newly arrived at Ellis Island who speaks some English (that’s good) but arrives with some ill-defined questions surrounding her “moral character” during the long sea voyage (that’s definitely bad). Her sister, Magda (Angela Sarafyan), has tuberculosis and is sent to quarantine, and her aunt and uncle in Brooklyn never show up to collect her. This leaves Ewa easy prey for Phoenix’s Bruno, himself a first-generation American who cruises the newcomers in the guise of a charity worker. I still get the sense that Phoenix is doing an uncanny impersonation of the young Marlon Brando, but Bruno is a richly realized character, eminently despicable but not inhuman. He has convinced himself that his concern for Ewa and the other young women he has turned to prostitution is genuine, and that he’s providing them an invaluable education in what’s necessary to survive in America. If that sometimes includes having sex with strangers in a Central Park pedestrian tunnel, well, welcome to the land of the free.

From Ellis Island to Central Park to middle-class Brooklyn to the crowded streets of the Lower East Side (re-created on location in the Bronx), Gray delivers a gritty, muted portrait of Roaring ’20s New York, photographed in monochrome tones by master cinematographer Darius Khondji. To put it in “Great Gatsby” terms, his characters are the strugglers and strivers in those nightmarish fields of ashes; they’ve never been to East Egg or the Plaza Hotel. Jeremy Renner shows up for a while as Bruno’s feckless cousin, a stage magician, turning the perverse Ewa–Bruno relationship into a romantic triangle. But “The Immigrant” is less a love story than a fable of sin and redemption and perhaps even of salvation, that central American conception that touches everyone who comes here.

13 Comments on this Post

  1. Houstonrufus

    good lord. Cotillard looks amazing in this.

  2. Winston

    she’s my favorite working actress today!!

  3. Eoin Daly

    This film feels like it will be Cotillard’s Sophie’s Choice. She is polish and has an emotional scene in the movie that makes everyone cry.

  4. Like last year, she’s one of the favourites to win Best Actress at Cannes. Unlike last year, I hope she can score an Oscar nomination.

  5. This looks great, Marion is so beautiful in person and was so nice. I think she has so much talent!

  6. It’ll help immensely that she’s in an English speaking role – they weren’t going to have two French-speaking roles nominated in the same year last year … also this will probably be seen next to The Great Gatsby as “the better” dramatic 1920s performance, it always helps to have a sort of foil for comparison

  7. Bryce Forestieri

    Best Cinematography nomination in the bag? These clips seem to suggest so. I’ll have to see the whole movie to decide if I like it. Oh wait never mind they didn’t nominate THE MASTER or SE7EN for that matter. Who knows what these smarties will do this year, as far as I’m concerned I’m not counting GRAVITY in.

  8. Marion Cotillard looks amazing in the clips. She is superb in The Immigrant and she must gets Oscar nomination.

  9. She didn’t win. Poor thing has had the most compelling post-Oscar career of any woman since Frances McDormand or Kathy Bates, if not Meryl in ’82. She’s like the modern-day Garbo. She’s overdue for her next nomination – no fluke or one-trick pony! Joaquin too!

  10. NEW YORK, Nov. 13, 2013 /PRNewswire/ — The Conference Board Leading Economic Index? (LEI) for Japan increased 1.2 percent in September to 100.1 (2004 = 100), following a 0.1 percent decline in August and a 0.3 percent increase in July.
    [url=]Ugg Classic Tall Chestnut[/url]
    Ugg Classic Tall Chestnut

  11. However, the number of complications among black and Hispanic patients dropped significantly when the researchers accounted for hospital and patient characteristics, according to the study published in the September issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
    [url=]Ugg Bailey Button[/url]
    Ugg Bailey Button

  12. ATTENTION NEWS APPLICANTS: Applicants for positions in the News Department should submit a non-returnable DVD resume tape with letter, resume, and references.YORK, Pa. (WHTM) –
    [url=]Ugg Bailey Button Clearance[/url]
    Ugg Bailey Button Clearance

  13. 2. Earned Income Tax Credit.
    [url=]Ugg Bailey Button Bomber[/url]
    Ugg Bailey Button Bomber

Leave a Comment

Warning: Do not abuse your right to comment here. You will be deleted.