America America (1963)
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- 174 min.
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The story of Elia Kazan's uncle and how he escaped Turkey's ethnic oppression, America America is obviously a very personal project for the director, who adapts his book and even lends his voice to the narration. Name changes are either to allow for dramatic changes, or to protect his uncle's reputation from some of the crimes the young Stavros (played with smokey brooding by Greek actor Stathis Giallelis) commits over the course of the story do not taint his reputation, who knows. But it IS a biopic, no matter how sculpted, and so its parts are uneven. Strongest by far is the first third, which shows us the regime the Greeks and Armenians were living under, and forces Stavros into real misery. The middle part, where his prospects looks up and he is tempted to stay in Turkey, is the lull; we start to feel the film's length. The shorter third act brings back some tension as it's not clear Stavros will be able to get off the boat. Nevertheless, each act includes a crucial moral dilemma, and if there isn't as much physical danger after the first act, Stavros' soul remains in peril. The film seems to say these sacrifices of honor were worth it, but it's really up to us to answer.
Really amazing. So many episodes in this journey! A movie that brings surprises and very interesting new developments all the way from start to end.
Very personal movie from Kazan
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In 7 official lists
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This movie ranks #22 in The New York Times's Book of Movies
This movie ranks #86 in Cahiers du Cinéma's 100 Films for an Ideal Cinematheque
This movie ranks #99 in A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese
This movie ranks #108 in Cahiers du Cinéma's Annual Top 10 Lists
This movie ranks #239 in Academy Award - Best Picture Nominees
This movie ranks #330 in Library of Congress's National Film Registry
This movie ranks #984 in TSPDT's 1,000 Greatest Films