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America America (1963) HD online

America America (1963) HD online
Language: English
Category: Movie / Drama
Original Title: America America
Director: Elia Kazan
Writers: Elia Kazan
Released: 1963
Duration: 2h 54min
Video type: Movie
Elia Kazan, ethnic Greek but Turkish by birth, tells the story of the struggles of his uncle - in this account named Stavros Topouzoglou - in emigrating to America. In the 1890's, the young, kind-hearted but naive Stavros lived in Anatolia, where the Greek and Armenian minorities were repressed by the majority Turks, this repression which often led to violence. Even Stavros being friends with an Armenian was frowned upon. As such, Stavros dreamed of a better life - specifically in America - where, as a result, he could make his parents proud by his grand accomplishments. Instead, his parents, with most of their money, sent Stavros to Constantinople to help fund the carpet shop owned by his first cousin once removed. What Stavros encountered on his journey, made on foot with a small donkey, made him question life in Anatolia even further. Once in Constantinople, his resolve to earn the 110 Turkish pound third class fare to the United States became stronger than ever. But try after try,...

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Cast overview:
Stathis Giallelis Stathis Giallelis - Stavros Topouzoglou
Frank Wolff Frank Wolff - Vartan Damadian
Harry Davis Harry Davis - Isaac Topouzoglou
Elena Karam Elena Karam - Vasso Topouzoglou
Estelle Hemsley Estelle Hemsley - Grandmother Topouzoglou
Gregory Rozakis Gregory Rozakis - Hohannes Gardashian
Lou Antonio Lou Antonio - Osman
Salem Ludwig Salem Ludwig - Odysseus Topouzoglou
John Marley John Marley - Garabet
Joanna Frank Joanna Frank - Vartuhi
Paul Mann Paul Mann - Aleko Sinnikoglou
Linda Marsh Linda Marsh - Thomna Sinnikoglou
Robert H. Harris Robert H. Harris - Aratoon Kebabian
Katharine Balfour Katharine Balfour - Sophia Kebabian

Of all the films he had directed, this one was Elia Kazan's favorite film, as it was very personal to him.

Kazan began shooting in Istanbul, but was concerned that Turkish officials would object to some of the material content and moved his base of production to Greece.

Estelle Helmsley, who plays the Greek grandmother, was actually an African-American actress.

Gene Callahan was Kazan's 'set decorator' on films that Dick Sylbert, and his twin brother Paul, as an associate, had art directed for Kazan. The Sylbert twins had worked with Gene on CBS-New York Network and Local television productions as an art department team. Kazan asked Gene to travel with him to Greece, and to be his film's Production Designer. Noteworthy is that this is Gene's first 'art director' credit. During the film's location filming, Gene also decorated, as he supervised the sets preparation for filming (construction and set decorating) crews. During the film career of Kazan and Callahan, they performed as a team on many succeeding film projects.

Kazan speaks the credits at the end but omits voicing his own name.

As a result of Ray Stark, the initial producer, withdrawing from the film. Elia Kazan brought himself to produce it by himself.

In June, 1964, after winning his first AMPAS production design-art direction Oscar, the New York IATSE #829 Scenic Designers and Artists' Board of Directors and guild "invited" Gene Callahan to join their membership, stipulating, he must present his port-folio of drawings, drafting, sketches and set designs. Gene had Elia Kazan's New York office deliver the six reels of the "America, America" feature film to the union office.

French visa # 28956.

MPAA # 20621.

The only Best Picture Oscar nominee that year to be also nominated for Best Art Direction (Black and white).



Reviews: [25]

  • avatar

    Silver Globol

    Kazan's reputation seems to have been diminishing for some time, a process, ironically, that his 'Lifetime Achievement' Oscar seems to have accelerated. Yeah, he did betray his fellows and himself in the 1950s. Again, ironically, it's the films he made later in his career, which show the scars of his loss of self-esteem, which are the most fascinating - WILD RIVER, SPLENDOR IN THE GRASS, THE ARRANGEMENT - and most powerful of them all, AMERICA AMERICA.

    I too am surprised that this monument to Americanism and monument of American cinema, seems not very widely known in America itself. It has all the values of classic American cinema - a strong, simple narrative, a limpid visual style which eschews any directorial histrionics to concentrate purely on the characters. It is the story of young men driven from their homeland and making the long voyage to America - the huddled masses yearning to be free. The journey is long and terribly hard, and even as the shore of American comes into view, sacrifices still have to be made. The end of the film is enormously powerful, one of the most moving I have ever seen - the effect is still with me now, 30 years after seeing it.

    It is the story of Kazan's father and uncle - the character who makes an appearance, played by Richard Boone, in Kazan's more heavily fictionalised subsequent film THE ARRANGEMENT. It is a personal story, and the simplicity of the telling seems like the end of a process of endless re-telling around smokey fireplaces, and before children go to sleep, a family saga which has almost attained the status of myth. The savagery of the film's first hour, and the dream-like quality of the last act make AMERICA AMERICA a genuine and powerful part of American mythology.

    So don't torture yourself about whether Kazan was morally and politically wrong in betraying his colleagues - see AMERICA AMERICA, and you'll see why he could never have acted any differently. Yes, he was a radical, and a leftist, and a deeply intelligent and passionate man; but he was also an immigrant - and his horror of disenfranchisement and ejection overcame his moral and political views. Kazan may criticise aspects of its culture and politics, but he loves and respects and is grateful to America above all. So he made his choice. He could have made no other.
  • avatar

    Tuliancel

    "America, America" deserves a modern audience but is almost impossible to find. I just viewed a VHS version obtained through the inter-library loan program. I live in Virginia and it was sent down from Alaska!

    This film should be required viewing for anyone interested in understanding why the huddled masses flocked to America but it is highly personalized and focused on a young man from a middle class Greek family with a big dream that seems impossible to fulfill. Another reviewer correctly likened Stathis Giallelis to a young Brando for his overpowering individuality, determination, and (for Turkish society in 1900) swagger. But when his character Stavros grows a mustache, he becomes a young Omar Sharif. AA is brilliantly written and directed by Elia Kazan.
  • avatar

    hulk

    Imagine a film like "The Godfather" receiving almost no audience, relegated to the occasional appearance on the AMC channel, barely being released on VHS or DVD, and you will have some idea of the tragic fate of this lost epic masterpiece. As hard as it is to believe, this may be the prolific director Elia Kazan's greatest film achievement, yet hardly anyone has seen it. This is a film on the epic scale of "The Godfather," about a young Armenian man's escape from Turkish persecution, flight from Anatolia, and eventual immigration to Ellis Island - all based upon the the experiences of the director's uncle. What is also tragic is the fact that I can think of no other film which portrays the cruel persecution and genocide inflicted upon the Armenian minority by the Ottoman Turks in the early 20th century (which Hitler correctly pointed to as proof that the world would look the other way at the genocide he had planned in Europe in the 1930s). Every period detail in the film is perfect, from the Oscar-winning costume design to the set design, Greek folk music score, veteran Haskell Wexler's cinematography, and acting - especially lead actor Giallelis, whose intensity brings to mind some of Brando's early work.

    It is obvious that this film was a very personal piece of film-making for Kazan. And though I don't want to dwell as others do on Kazan's checkered past in his naming of communist colleagues for HUAC in the 1950s, it is interesting to note a parallel in the main character Stavros' personal anguish in making the choice to leave his wealthy wife and use her money to immigrate to the United States; both men made the conscious decision to drive a wedge between them and their past relationships. This is truly a film for all Americans to treasure, and if I had my way, I would make sure it was broadcast every 4th of July just as "It's a Wonderful Life" is broadcast every Christmas. As a nation of immigrants and descendants of immigrants, this is a film virtually every American can relate to. I can't figure out why it is so obscure.
  • avatar

    Celore

    I first saw America, America when it was originally released and I saw it with my father. When the lights came up, I looked at my father and there were tears in his eyes and he said "this is my story too". His journey to America was the same as the character in the movie, only he came from Armenia.

    Elia Kazan, with this movie has told the story of many immigrants, just like my father, with truth and depth of character. This isn't a fairy tale, the story is real and reflects the perils and experiences many immigrants took to come to

    America. I am amazed that more people don't know about this movie. Whenever I rewatch it, I am reminded of the sacrifices my father made to come to this country and why I'm am blessed to be an American.
  • avatar

    Nilador

    While I am not sure I'd consider this to be Elia Kazan's best film, it certainly ranks up there with his best--which is saying a lot considering he's the same guy who brought us "On The Waterfront", "A Streetcar Named Desire" and "Rebel Without a Cause". As for Kazan himself, this was his favorite film as it's the story of his uncle--a man who busted his butt to get himself to America around the turn of the century.

    When the movie begins, Kazan himself narrates and explains that the story is about the man who is responsible for him and his family immigrating to the US. His story begins in Turkey. It's around the time in history when the Turks were about to wipe out most of the Armenians--and things for other minorities in their land (in this case, the Greeks) weren't very good either. So, a family decides to send their oldest son, Stavros (Stathis Giallelis), to Constantiople to earn his fortune--and to be able to afford to eventually bring them all to America...and freedom. Stavros is a very, very determined man...but also quite naive. Again and again, he's used by people and left with nothing. But, he's an amazingly resilient guy and soon he's willing to do just about anything to make the money he needs to take the ship to America.

    While the story is rather simple, it's handled exquisitely. You can really tell that it's a labor of love, as the story unfolds very slowly and patiently. This is NOT a complaint-just a statement about the writer/director's style in the movie. It's really great what he was able to achieve with mostly inexperienced actors and non-actors. Perhaps Giallelis' performance is a bit too quiet and even stilted...but it is hard to imagine that he wasn't even an actor! Overall, it's a beautiful tale--and one of the most American of movies because it tells a story of immigration that most of us in the US can relate to. Even though my family was not Greek, so much of the rest of the film is pretty typical of what other poor families like my own probably went through on their way to a new land. Well worth seeing and a nice history lesson.
  • avatar

    Berenn

    "America, America" is a movie made with the soul. It is a hair-raising movie about the immigrant experience, made by artists temporarily outside the Hollywood cage. It is about the struggle to be human in a world that bites at you, and it is about naked desire. "America, America" is a film about a young man with ichor in his arteries, made by people with ichor in their arteries.

    Stavros is a young Greek from Anatolia, a youth with burning eyes, full of ethos as well. He yearns to live a life away from degradation (Greeks in Anatolia were a despised minority). This movie shows his peregrination to America, in three of the shortest hours I've ever lived. It shows a cycle of being broken and rebuilt over and again, the death of illusions, the obduracy of hope, and the rack of desire.

    Haskell Wexler deserves special mention as he quite frequently produced jaw-dropping shots in this movie. There is a scene in this movie where Stavros is sat next to an older woman, Sophia (sat together like panthers watching an ape play with jackals), and the electricity between them, established entirely visually, is a devastation.

    The editing from Dede Allen, is similarly special, and you can see that Kazan acknowledged all this creative talent as he reads out all the names of the major creative staff at the end over the credits. One particularly beautiful effect was a dissolve the last time we see Stavros' mother, where her face persist on the screen for a moment, almost as if she has become a ghost.

    You absolutely must see this movie.
  • avatar

    Cordanius

    This is a superb piece of filmmaking which has, unfortunately, been all but forgotten. The only weakness is in its star (Stathis Gialellis), but the film is so good that it doesn't matter (and, on second viewing, he's really not all that bad). I have seen this film many, many times on video and once I was privilaged to see it on on the "big Screen" at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. I highly recommend it. The black and white cinematography by Haskell Wexler is top-notch. This film is a testament to the human spirit.
  • avatar

    Simple

    Director Kazan tells the story of his uncle (named Stavros in the film) who grew up in Turkey and emigrated to the United States as a young man. Stravos was Greek and, in the late 1800s when the movie takes place, Greeks were an oppressed minority in Turkey, along with the Armenians. The movie does a good job of showing how incensed Stavros is to see his father's obsequious behavior toward the Turks, and he suffers humiliation in an early scene where the Turks take what they want from an ice cart without any recompense. Stavros's yearning to escape this oppression is well motivated and his feelings are no secret within the family.

    Seeing his outrage, the family gives Stavros everything they can spare so that he can get to Constantinople to work with his uncle, a rug seller. From there we follow Stavros through some difficult adventures as he pursues his monomaniacal quest to get to America. When someone says, "I would kill to do such and such," it is usually spoken metaphorically, but it becomes a reality for Stavros.

    The stories of Kazan's real life uncle came down to him as family history. As any tale handed down through several tellers this story gives evidence of embellishments. Whether these came down to Kazan as presented in the movie, or whether he added his own we don't know, but consider the chance meeting on a trail in the countryside between Stavros and Hohannes, an impoverished compatriot who also is bent on getting to America. Stavros gives Hohannes his shoes and this established a bond between the two. Then years later it turns out that Stavros and Hohannes are on the same boat to America and, through a complicated plot point, Hohannes gives his life so that Stavros can make it. Seems to stretch believability. And I have to think that the scene where Stavros is taken for dead and happens to fall off the burial cart is overplayed.

    The black and white photography by Haskell Wexler is impressive. Black and white is appropriate for the stark nature of this movie; there are hardly even any shades of gray in Stavros's personality. Even as much a fan of black and white as I am, I was left wondering how filming this in color would change the the tone of the movie.

    While the forces driving Stavros to his destiny were clear, in his portrayal of the man I felt that Stathis Giallelis did not emote the strength of character that Stavros must have had in order to accomplish what he did. Think of a young Anthony Quinn in this role.

    The last part of the movie is quite emotional. The scenes at Ellis Island are so realistic that I assume many of them come from documentary footage. Poignant to see how the ancestors of many of us born in this country came to be here.

    The score by Manos Hadjidakis is memorable.
  • avatar

    Zyangup

    The picture talks about a Greek young from Anatoly ( Turkey ) named Stavros ( Stathis Giallelis ). He is sent by his father to Constantinopla for helping their family . Howewer Stavros only thinks on America . Across the journey he will suffer several misfortunes , risks and odds in his relationships to friends (Frank Wolff, John Marley, Lou Antonio) and enemies . Later on , Stavros will work in laborious employments to obtain a passage in a splendid ship for the promised land.

    The movie is a magnificent adaptation based on the autobiographic novel of Greek-Turkish director Elia Kazan who being a child emigrated along with his family to United States . Since the initiating he describes memories , emotions and infancy images , besides narrates the persecution to Greeks and Armenians by Turkish that finished in genocide . Kazan reflects the particular characters , rural sets in realism way , folkloric customs , glimmer landscapes as well as interior homes . Kazan achieved a real emotion and sensibility by means of slow-moving scenes and close-ups of protagonists full of dialogs dealing with essential feeling as familiar love , friendship or happiness . These images contrast with the breathtaking outdoors of the mountains and countrysides where are developed the events . Magnificent cinematography in black and white by Haskel Wexler . Awesome and evocative musical score in oriental style by Manos Hadjidakis ( Topkapi ). The motion picture is very well directed by Elia Kazan ( On the waterfront ) . The release won Academy Award , an Oscar for production design and attained three nominations referred to Director and original screenplay , plus obtained a Golden Globe for Director and the biggest prize in Festival of San Sebastian . Rating : Above average and astounding movie. Well worth watching .
  • avatar

    Modifyn

    It takes some time for Kazan's movie to find its level and it could do with some judicious pruning, (it lasts about three hours). The faults are mostly at the beginning, (it's worth sticking with it), and the scenes of peasant oppression and revolt don't ring true. The casting of American players doesn't help or maybe Kanzan was just too close to his material. It is, after all, the story of his own family and how they came to America. He not only directs but wrote it as well and it's a subject deeply felt, and which he doesn't view objectively.

    It picks up when the hero, Stavros, (an unconvincing Stathis Giallelis), gets to Constantinople and falls in with a rich merchant and his family and is promised in marriage to the merchant's daughter. It isn't that these scenes feel any 'truer' than the earlier scenes of poverty, (this is a culture that is alien to us and Kazan lays on the religious symbolism a mite too heavily), but dramatically they are very well structured and observed and the performances of both Paul Mann as the merchant and Linda Marsh as his daughter are outstanding. The rest of the acting is very uneven and Giallelis is certainly no James Dean, (his career was short-lived).

    In the film's final third we follow Stavros to America and the ship-board scenes are brilliantly done. Haskell Wexler photographs them with a documentary-like realism, (his cinematography throughout is superb), and Kazan reins in the film's penchant for melodrama, (only a sacrificial act of kindness strains credulity). There are several splendid sequences spread across the film and ultimately one is inclined to forgive Kazan for the occasions where it falls flat. It isn't, of course, in any way 'commercial', which is some kind of virtue in itself. It panders to no-one but Kazan. Perhaps that makes it some kind of folly but if it is, then it's a grandiose one.
  • avatar

    Daigami

    Only in the last 5 minutes of America, America is there any action actually filmed in America. The prelude to that - a good 2 hrs 40 minutes - is about one young man's struggle against the odds to reach America: the land of opportunity. This, director Elia Kazan's most personal project and favorite film, is partly biographical based as it is on the experiences of his eldest uncle Stavros.

    Elia Kazan's name generates mixed feelings. According to some e.g. Stanley Kubrick, he was the greatest American director. Most others are unable to get past his "naming names" to the HUAC in the 50's. Be that as it may, his works need to be judged on their professional merit, and certainly no other film captures the immigrant experience in the early part of the 20th century like America, America.

    The only negative to the film is the lengthy running time and the slow pace for the first hour. Some have criticized the acting of the central character who occupies center stage for virtually the entire film. He's certainly no Brando, Clift, Dean or DeNiro. However, his accent and looks are much more Greek and that adds to the documentary like feel of the film.

    Instead of filming in Hollywood studio sets, Kazan and DP Haskell Wexler (who won a well-deserved Oscar) opted for locations in Turkey and Greece - the action being set in Central Anatolia and Constantinople. This gives the film a rougher, more realistic look absent from other Kazan films of the late 50s-60s. The tragedies and injustices meted out to minorities under Ottoman rule and the harshness of life are what really stays with you after the film is over. There are several emotional moments such as when Stavros gets engaged and his fiancée pleads to him, or when he finally lands in America and sends a letter home.
  • avatar

    Nkeiy

    Agreed! "America, America" is one of the best pictures ever made. It is a must see for any first or second generation American. A true American classic in the best sense. The movie might be a bit hard to find on video, but when you find it you won't be disappointed....I promise!
  • avatar

    Vosho

    In this biographical look at an uncle's journey to America that would eventuate in his own arrival in the new land, director Elia Kazan warmly and somewhat ineptly plods it out in America, America. Slowly paced, repetitive and morosely performed it flounders a great deal of the way as Kazan attempts but fails to turn lead Starvos Gaillias into the Greek Dean with an endless parade of long pauses in overlong scenes. The result is one slow mostly low key show.

    Repressed by the Turks in their own country Starvros is chosen by the family Patriarch with the family fortune to get them out of their predicament and is sent off to Constantinople to invest in a rug business with a relative. Innocent that he is he is quickly exploited and exposed to the cruel world at large of unsavory characters and systems. Befriended and betrayed he is soon destitute but eventually works his way into a situation that upon marrying the owner's daughter will set him up for life. It's all very tempting but America remains the brass ring for him and things on the domestic front dissolve and he returns to pursuing that dream.

    At three hours in length America, America's grinding rhythm never attains much of a pace. Gaillias in the lead is all stare little emotion and incapable of stretching never mind even approach the thespian talents of a Brando or a Dean. Kazan gets around this by having his other characters perform over the top to his flat demeanor in which he is supposed to convey introspection and intent to reject the Old World but it fails miserably as Gaillias performance is bordered somewhere between comatose and zombie. Save for John Marley, the vaunted director of actors shows little of it here.

    Almost as distracting is the cinema verite style of Haskell Wexler's cinematography which seems terribly out of sync with Kazan's classic framing of powerhouse actors. Without either , America, America's sloppily meanders amid Kazan nostalgia and his inability to say cut to a project he was perhaps too close to craft with the artist's eye.
  • avatar

    Hawk Flying

    During its existence, so many immigrants have come to The United States to escape persecution or poverty. Their stories are usually enthralling, and I have gone out of my way to hear the stories of first generation Americans from their own lips. Here is a film that captures much of the drama of those true stories, because it is the story of the director's (Elia Kazan) uncle, whose single-minded goal was to leave Turkey and come to the U.S.

    Kazan uses black and white film to achieve the feeling of a documentary, particularly in the last section of the film, when the protagonist--Stavros--arrives on American shores. Kazan also uses some unknown actors, not allowing the story to be subsumed by celebrity.

    This story feels like it has been told over and over during family gatherings, crystallizing it into a dramatic essence, achieving nearly-mythical proportions. Still, it feels true to life, infused with hard-edged realism.

    "America America" is as fascinating as it is stark in its depiction of the immigrant experience. There is nothing glossy about this story and that is why it resonates with truthfulness.
  • avatar

    Tujar

    I first saw this film shortly after it came out when I was a young man, subject to all the passions and sensibilities of young men, an emotional slate on which it was still possible to write with bold strokes. And surely that accounted, to some degree, for the acutely emotional experience this film represented for me. It haunted me for days after I left the theater, and to some degree, has haunted me ever since, continuing to find a kind of timeless relevance in today's world. Very simply it is the story of a young man and his struggle to reach America. It is based on a true story, of the journey undertaken by director Elia Kazan's uncle, and it is played to perfection by a stellar cast, none of whom gives a more mesmerizing performance than young Stathis Giallelis, as Stavros. Because of its splendid, soul stirring music score, its location photography, and its flawless direction, I think it is perhaps the most nearly perfect film I have ever seen, and a deeply moving experience. I cannot recommend it highly enough. Forced to choose a favorite director, it would most likely be Kazan, and this is his masterpiece.
  • avatar

    Blackbeard

    This is a great movie narrating the life journey of individuals who start their way from their original homeland escaping Turkish massacres and ethnic cleansing to New York, the place of the "poor and the tired" ...everything is great...scenes, narration, events, acting.

    This is a sensitive movie, with a good and impressive ending that tells a lot.

    In summary, it is the history of America of Immigrants, the shelter of persecuted from the viewpoint of victims of Turkish massacres in the beginning of the 20th century. Based on its content, I can say that it is the life history of all immigrants in USA.

    A good movie...worth 8/10!
  • avatar

    Crazy

    What we have here is a three-hour movie that required more editing. Just because the movie is an epic-length feature does not make it an epic, and this movie is not an epic. Ostensibly, it's about a young man, a Greek-Turk, struggling to emigrate to the United States but it's really about the director, using the movie as a pretext to tell his own story, a story that is not especially interesting. First, the director demonstrates his bias toward Turks, loading up the movie with stereotypical images of Turks as bullies, oppressors and petty-autocrats. Then, stretching plausibility to the limit, the director shows the protagonist, who is literally dirt poor, having lost whatever meager belongings he had to thieves and prostitutes, getting involved with the family of a well-to-do merchant and then, in what can only be ascribed to a bout of temporary insanity, rejecting the possibility of marrying into the family in order to go to America. It is one thing to emigrate because you're denied opportunity; it is another thing entirely to emigrate while opportunity is knocking on the door and in this movie not only is opportunity knocking for this young man, it's knocking loud and clear. Then he winds up having an affair with the married wife of a rich Armenian-American, a part of the movie which has some dramatic moments due to the excellent acting of Katharine Balfour, who gives the best performance in the movie. And finally he makes it to America, by appropriating a dead man's name, and then is shown shining shoes in New York City, with a big smile on his face, while the director, in an off-screen monologue, explains that over a period of years the young man manages to bring over the rest of his family. The scenes depicting his actual arrival to the United States are anticlimactic, featuring one brief glimpse of the Statue of Liberty in a wide angle shot; little drama there. Manhattan is depicted as a series of lights flickering in the distance; not much drama there either. Given the main character's obsession with getting to America, these scenes are a let down. Then there are the scenes set on Ellis Island which the director uses to impugn the American immigration officials who are portrayed as being arrogant and on the take. This alone should have been enough to convince the young man to take the next boat back to Turkey, beg his fiancé's forgiveness, marry her, acquire his father-in-law's business, make a lot of money, and possibly buy a political office, if not for himself then for one of his relatives. But he does not do it, instead settling to become a shoe shiner in New York City. The movie character Forest Gump said: "Stupid is as stupid does." Gump must have watched this movie too. How the young man, this shoe shiner, gets the money to afford to bring over the rest of his family is not explained, which is probably for the best. The interior cinematography is excellent, the exteriors showing mountains and villages almost stock footage; the actor who plays the protagonist gives a credible performance, and the rest of the cast does good work. It's the story, and the director's apparent need to focus on himself, that brings this movie down.
  • avatar

    Ghordana

    Elia Kazan has been often criticized about his personal choices in some parts of life that are now history. It is understandable that this kind of criticism -though totally justified in some cases- should not be the lens through which we will judge his works of art. In particular, "America America" can only be described as a very well directed film "carrying" many of the truths of multicultural Asia Minor during the last decades of Ottoman Empire. It accurately depicts the contradiction between cosmopolitan Constantinople and the more "oriental" villages of Asia Minor. The dream of a new life in a new and free land like America is excellently presented in the movie together with the strong bonds of the members of a family and the social status of Greeks, Turks and Armenians at that region back then. The fact that Elia Kazan put a great deal of himself in the movie makes it more worth-seeing. Thank you for reading.
  • avatar

    Balladolbine

    Reading the rave reviews here, I feel a bit like the boy in the Emperor's New Clothes, but ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I found this movie almost unwatchable. I really don't understand the cult of Kazan -- I wonder if sometimes he doesn't benefit from a kind of reverse discrimination -- some people just determined to like the films --- good or bad -- just to spite those who feel so strongly about his political / ethical behavior in the 1950's. (FYI - from what I understand of it all, I can't say that I think he behaved as well as possible, but I have no problem separating that from his movies.)

    The movie is pretty in some parts, but I found the acting to be clichéd and hackneyed. The dialogue was worse and was aggravated by the fact that the actors were apparently all directed (or at least allowed ) to SHOUT LOTS OF THEIR LINES (to show that they are a heartfelt peasant folk wearing their emotions on their sleeves? Or maybe just to try to keep the audience awake.) The fact that most of them do it with a Lower East Side New York accent is just a bonus. Except the lead, who somehow picked up a Greek-ish accent (it starts to sound more Latino as the movie goes on) in a village where his parents and neighbors sound like Anne Bancroft and Mel Brooks (no wonder he wants to go to America.) But he doesn't talk so much -- his specialty seems to be long, dark smoldering looks. I guess the looks are meant to substitute for motive -- while he is obsessed with getting to America, it's hard to believe that his desire to do so overwhelms the other opportunities he's presented with in Constantinople ------ frankly, he ends up seeming a bit simple-minded throughout the film.

    I agree with the commentator who noted that there aren't a lot of movies that deal with the Armenian genocide, but I don't see where that means you should celebrate a bad one (especially one that is really about the Greeks anyway, not that they were treated well by the Turks either). I certainly don't think that a movie that perpetuates every dumb stereotype about Greeks and Turks and immigrants (and Americans, come to think of it) is anything worth getting excited about. I'd say the only reason to rush to get this one on DVD is that it'd be easier to fast forward through it than on VHS.
  • avatar

    Kirimath

    Its narrative and stylistic excellence captivated me. Professional critics say some very harsh things: "Kazan has failed to film the adventure implicit in his material, and a potentially exciting story has gone to waste" MFB; and: "If he sinks his teeth into a scene that he enjoys, the audience can just sit around and be damned" (Kauffmann). I think this is unfair. He weaves a rich narrative tapestry, elevating the ordinary to the level of epic. I particularly liked the extended scenes with the young hero's father-in-law and bride. The Old World vignettes are so interesting and unusual, that one doesn't want the guy to ever reach America! Despite all its excellence, this movie contains some fallacies: that America is the only country welcoming immigrants (how about Australia or Argentina). The Ottoman Empire is depicted as bestial, yet the movie doesn't tell us, that at the time America, America was having a slight Filipino problem. In a sense the whole world is America now. Europe is having a big immigration problem.
  • avatar

    Keth

    As the Ottoman Empire's stability crumbled in the nineteenth century as a result of internal corruption and perceived outside threats, oppression and intolerance of Greek and Armenian minorities multiplied. Pogroms organized by the Sultan in 1895 and 1896 resulted in the deaths of 200,000 Armenians and the displacement of thousands of Greeks, many of whom looked to America as a salvation. Between 1890 and 1917, 450,000 Greeks (90% male) arrived in the U.S. seeking freedom and opportunity. One of their stories is told by director Elia Kazan in his 1963 film America, America, based on his novel of his uncle's journey to America in 1896 from his homeland of Anatolia. The film was nominated for an Oscar for Best Picture, but lost to Tom Jones.

    Shot by legendary cinematographer Haskell Wexler in black-and-white using non-professional actors, America, America is the story of a young Greek, Stavros Topouzoglou (Stathis Giallelis) and the enormous obstacles he faces in trying to reach America's golden shores. Under Wexler's guidance, the film has the look and feel of a documentary, marred only by its awkward dubbing (Stavros' grandmother, for example, sounding like Sadie from Brooklyn). As the film opens, we hear the words of the director, "I'm Elia Kazan. I am a Greek by blood, a Turk by birth, and an American because my uncle made a journey."

    After Vartan (Frank Wolff), a close Armenian friend of Stavros, is murdered by the Turks and Stavros is dismayed by his father's compromising attitude towards the Turkish oppressors, he is entrusted by his parents, Isaac (Harry Davis), and Vasso (Elena Karam) with all of the family's wealth and sent on a two-hour journey to Constantinople to join his cousin Odysseus (Salem Ludwig) in the rug business. Along the way, however, Stavros is robbed by the despicable thief Abdul (Lou Antonio) who pretends to be his friend but betrays him and takes of all of his wealth. Penniless but still determined to go to America, Stavros rejects the offer of an arranged marriage with the daughter (Linda Marsh) of a wealthy rug dealer, even though she is devoted to him and can look past his deceitful purposes.

    He is able, however, to use his dowry money to buy a third-class passage to the United States but must first get past additional and seemingly impossible obstacles once onboard ship and eventually must rely on the sacrifice of a young Armenian indentured shoeshine boy, Hohanness Gardashian (Gregory Rozakis). America, America is obviously a heartfelt and personal film for Mr. Kazan but will never be thought of in the same light as On The Waterfront and A Streetcar Named Desire, even though it is said to be Kazan's favorite.

    There are segments that are authentic including the scene at Ellis Island when the passengers wait for their turn to be approved or denied, and also those involving Ms. Marsh and Katherine Balfour, a lonely wife Stavros entertains aboard ship. While the film is a powerful rendering of the immigrant experience, it never becomes a cohesive whole. Limited by a banal script, an unwieldy running time, a lack of character growth, and a lead actor whose expression ranges from dour to morose, America, America ultimately stumbles in its attempt at being a work of true epic stature.
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    Ubrise

    Totally involving study of youth and dreams. Master director and writer, the genius Kazan nine years after On The Waterfront, tells the story with personal conviction. The result is film-making that cannot be bettered. The heart-breaking scene of Stavros surrounded by the upper-class passengers dancing by himself on the deck of the ship to help him escape his pain is unforgettable. I loved the picaresque nature of the story and seeing the palpable changes in Stavros. The movie could have been sentimental but Kazan doesn't allow it to be. The characters from the different ethnicities and classes are created with real understanding. There are no "minor" roles. Without becoming overbearing, every detail is perfect. Even though it deals with dark themes the film is a total delight.
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    Bu

    Masterful direction and cinematography...!!!! It was watching a series of wonderful black and white photographs taken by a skilled professional photographer. This movie is a joy to watch and enjoy.

    The actors, most of them unknowns at the time, are excellent. It is so well dome it is like watching a documentary. The hand-held camera work helps give you this feeling.

    The story, basically a true story about an uncle of Elia Kazan and his efforts to get to America, is riveting. The characters seem real because they are real. It will hold your attention. SEE IT..!!!! You won't be sorry.
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    Jorad

    I saw America America way back when I was a teen and had not seen it since till today. I was surprised at how much I remembered of it. It was like reliving tales told by my grandparents and some of their siblings of their immigration stories.

    In this case this was fashioned tales of Elia Kazan's parents and their siblings woven together to create an immigrant story. It's not pretty at times and the black and white cinematography accents the harshness of the experience.

    Kazan's protagonist is young Stathis Giallelis and a few familiar character actors are in the cast. No box office names though to accent the reality of the story. Giallelis is a Greek in Turkish Anatolia, a place where during the Ottoman Empire persecuting Greeks and Armenians was a national pasttime. Not that persecution led to any kind of solidarity, the two minorities had it in for each other as much as the Turks.

    Giallelis hears of America, a fabled land where this sort of organized persecution and permanent status at the bottom of society doesn't happen. He resolves to go, but his family only sends him as far as Istanbul (as Greeks they still call it Constantinople)to help out one of the relatives.

    He hears the fare is 110 English pounds and one way or another he's going.

    The last 15 minutes or so is when Giallelis arrives and there's a compelling montage of immigrants including our protagonist doing all kinds of menial jobs that we who are here won't do. It's no different today with the current folks who want to come here, the ones our current administration is bent on scapegoating for its own purposes. Look folks, that montage tells more than the Kazan family story. it's your story or mine unless you were born an American Indian.

    And speaking for the Kogans, Lucyshyns, Scrobacks, and Fleischmans, I'm glad Elia Kazan made America America and told the tale.
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    ᴜɴɪᴄᴏʀɴ

    Whenever directors have 'personal' projects, that's enough to make me scream for the exits. Take for example, Elia Kazan's 'America, America', a movie that just SCREAMS "Pretentious" because it's so "important", or so it would like it to be.

    A young Greek who has big dreams of going to America, hits a few stumbling blocks along the way, namely turncoat friends, lack of money, turncoat hookers, lack of money etc. He then realizes that in order to GET money to get to America, he has to marry into it. But is he comfortable with that decision though? Although the acting is good (the lead, played by Stathis Giallelis, is particularly good), I found some of this either strangely dubbed, or badly written, can't quite place it. The cinematography is great though, as looks as gritty as it seems. Finally, Kazan unfortunately feels this was, again, IMPORTANT, so his little speech at the beginning and his hilarious voice-over over the credits when we could just read it for ourselves just screams pretentious film-making.

    So, good in some parts, bad on others, too long, and woefully pretentious in places. There, you're on your own now. :)