America, America

On our last night of the recent vacation Claudia and I were watching a PBS presentation on Elia Kazan. He’s one of the handful of great directors who produced a handful of great films, On the Waterfront, East of Eden, Face in the Crowd among others.

He was a controversial figure in 1960’s Hollywood because he had named names. His movies often hinted at his reaction to the disapprobation by his liberal colleagues. Double A may have too by providing an explanation for his naming names. The protagonist in his movie suffers such deprivation that he’ll stop at very little to achieve his goal of reaching America. Perhaps Kazan wanted to show that sometimes you can’t let niceties like not ratting out your friends get in the way of your life’s goals. I’m glad I was never in Kazan’s shoes. Oops! That’s almost a spoiler.

I told Claudia that I’d seen America America when my folks took us to see it when I was in junior high school. It was apparently his favorite and something of a family biography. I only recalled the part where a rich woman took him as a lover on shipboard as he finally sailed to America. That turned out to be a very small part of a movie which was not unlike the book Warmth of Other Suns which we’ve been reading.

It reminded me of the movie Zorba the Greek which was made the following year 1964 black and white with bouzouki music and even a few dance scenes. It was long. It was also the best depiction of the travails of immigration to America. I don’t remember much about the Bergman film the Immigrants either, other than the tortured death of the hungry Swedish child who ate the unleavened bread before it has risen. Death and sex. Just the kinds of things adolescents obsess about. Too bad I haven’t grown out of that phase.