Will We Get to Hear The Immigrant’s Song At Last?

Cannes 2013, poster, movie, The Immigrant

Finally, a domestic trailer for James Gray’s The Immigrant has been released, re-whetting my appetite for a film that I had given up hope of ever seeing, unless it was picked up by Showtime (that island of misfit independent films). Happily, I was wrong. The delay seems to have more to do with The Weinstein Company’s desire to give the film some breathing room, than any doubts about its theatrical worth.

The year is 1920. In search of a new start and the American dream, Ewa Cybulski and her sister Magda sail to New York from their native Poland. When they reach Ellis Island, doctors discover that Magda is ill, and the two women are separated. Ewa is released onto the mean streets of Manhattan while her sister is quarantined. Alone, with nowhere to turn and desperate to reunite with Magda, she quickly falls prey to Bruno, a charming but wicked man who takes her in and forces her into prostitution. And then one day, Ewa encounters Bruno’s cousin, the debonair magician Orlando. He sweeps Ewa off her feet and quickly becomes her only chance to escape the nightmare in which she finds herself.

Those who have seen the film, as is evidenced by the blurbs which pepper the trailer, were charmed and moved by it. Comparisons to Elia Kazan don’t come lightly to most.  It’s probably no accident that the trailer brings to mind Kazan’s America, America as well as Sergio Leone‘s Once Upon a Time in America. In any event, it looks to have been beautifully photographed by Darius Khondji (Amour, Midnight in Paris). The music under the trailer was not composed for this film, but it is by a Polish composer, Wojciech Kilar. I hope Christopher Spellman, who has scored three previous Gray films (all of which starred Joaquin Phoenix as well), captures the themes and the period as well as Kilar’s piece. Look for Spellman in a cameo as Arturo Toscanini.

For my part, Marion Cotillard looks appropriately waif-like, bordering on consumptive, while managing to maintain her luminous beauty. I have no doubt she’ll be wonderful. Phoenix looks restrained, but the hint of menace is still there. I’ll be waiting for the other shoe to drop after every line he utters. The question mark for me will be Jeremy Renner’s Orlando. Is he the good guy? The romantic lead? That would be a nice change. We’ll see.

Here’s the first full-length domestic trailer:

thank you JoBlo


I followed the production of The Immigrant pretty closely when it was still called “Untitled James Gray Project” (way back when I was still writing for I Need My Fix *moment of silence*). The title then became Lowlife, then Nightingale, and finally, The Immigrant. After screening in-competition at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival in May and the New York Film Festival in October, followed by fests in Chicago, Miami and all over the rest of the world, again there’s really been no word on whether or not this film would ever see the light of a US day. Next week, it will play another festival, this one in Newport Beach, CA and then in May, The Immigrant will finally get a (limited) release on the 16th, thanks to Harvey and The Weinstein Company. Now, if you don’t happen to live in either NY or LA, the odds are you won’t see it unless you have some form of OnDemand. (I’m still hoping we’ll get it here in cinema-friendly Boston.)

The same fate was suffered by Blood Ties, the 2nd James Gray/Marion Cotillard collaboration (albeit he only wrote it and Cotillard’s husband Guillaume Canet directed it). That one was filmed after The Immigrant, yet released first. But unless you were actively looking for it, you’d have missed it both in NY/LA theaters AND VoD. It does make one wonder just how “lucky” their collaboration is, at least commercially. Artistically, however, is another matter. There is such a thing as art for art’s sake.

Cotillard was cast after she met Gray during a dinner where Gray and Canet were discussing the script for Blood Ties. The director claims that he had never seen any of Cotillard’s work, but was instantly drawn to her. He wrote the character, Ewa Cybulski, his first female lead, especially for her. He also wrote her a LOT of Polish dialogue for what was the French actress’s first English language LEAD, despite a lot of supporting roles.

Meanwhile, Cotillard’s accent has been discussed quite a bit recently. Justin Kurzel, directing a new version of Shakepeare’s Macbeth made the decision to let Lady Macbeth be French, rather than have his lead actress struggle to wrap her delicate French tongue around a Scottish accent. (Pitchfork wielding purists can relax. There is plenty of historical evidence to support the plausibility of Kurzel’s choice.) It does always amuse me when filmmakers assume that the ears of English speakers won’t be able to tell that an actor’s accent does not match their on-screen heritage, eg: in Dom Hemingway, we’re asked to buy Mexican actor Demian Bichir as a Russian gangster without any attempt to alter his speech patterns. (The movie itself is so over-the-top and one gets so caught up in its momentum that this might not bother most. It is merely the most recent example of this phenomenon.)

The Immigrant, directed by James Gray, with Marion Cotillard, Joaquin Phoenix, Jeremy Renner, Angela Sarafyan, and Dogmara Domincyzk. Opens in New York and LA on May 16, before (hopefully) rolling out to more cities.

*(bit of trivia: she’s Mrs. Patrick Wilson)




3 responses to “Will We Get to Hear The Immigrant’s Song At Last?

  1. You had me sold when you mentioned Once Upon Time In America, one of my very favourite movies. Has The Imigrant ever been distributed outside America? I live in the UK, so am wondering if its already out in Europe but I haven’t noticed it- or if the American issues getting a release are holding it up worldwide. We never did get Snowpiercer released here in the UK at all, so I know weird stuff happens in film distribution, even in this digital age.

  2. just watched the immigrant. moved to tears. that last scene with phoenix and cotillard was breathtaking – cold and callous and full of love and hatred. the music over final credits was so moody and apropos. gorgeous, haunting and simple. a great film full of pathos and redemption. christopher spellman again makes me proud to be from new orleans.

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