Thursday, May 7, 2015

"The Immigrant" with Jeremy Renner and Joaquin Phoenix (2014)

When Ewa Cybulska; played by Marion Cotillard; arrives in America with her sister Magda ; played by Angela Sarafyan; she expects to be greeted by her family and become acquainted with her new homeland. Instead, her sister is denied entry due to tuberculosis and she is set to be deported because her relatives never showed up. This is the beginning if an ethereal film which takes you on Ewa’s journey in the America of the 1920’s and Prohibition.

Joaquin Phoenix plays Bruno Weiss, who first meets Ewa at Ellis Island. He spots her in the line of persons to be interred before deportation and offers to help her out. He slips the guard a bribe to let him take her back to Manhattan with her on the boat.

Ewa’s first days are marked by getting to know the other women who seem to all know Bruno. With her limited English Ewa is hard pressed to find out what these girls do and how they all know Bruno, who presents himself as a promoter of some sort. In reality he runs a string of prostitutes and intends to make Ewa one of them.

Bruno’s cousin Orlando; played by Jeremy Renner; is a magician at the nightclub which features “shows” performed by Bruno’s girls. When Bruno puts her onstage for the first time she is savaged by the audience with verbal abuse and erotic suggestions. As a devout Catholic she withdraws within herself to fend off the fear and confusion she feels; not to mention the betrayal by Bruno.

As Bruno draws Ewa more deeply into his world of degradation we see the effect it has upon him. He begins to love her without knowing how to express it. In reality; although she is the one being degraded, Bruno is the one who suffers for it. The irony is that he basically suffers the consequences of his own decisions. While she has her religion to fall back upon; he has nothing.

Meantime, Ewa forms a bond of sorts with Orlando which allows her to transcend the terrible things happening to her as she awaits a chance to get her sister out of quarantine and begin her life without Bruno.

This is a much nuanced film, with beautiful cinematography. It is a bit slow paced; perhaps deliberately so; to let the viewer feel the uncertainty of the events being experienced by Ewa. Real life is like that; things which are unfamiliar seem to drag by until you get used to the routine. The film is directed by James Gray from a script he co-write with Ric Menello .

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