Lamerica

on October 04, 1995 by Alex Albanese
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   We are a land almost completed populated by immigrants and their offspring, yet for most Americans immigration is either shrouded in pious nostalgia or viewed with economic alarm. Multiculturalism tries to displace the melting pot as the acceptable metaphor, but both ignore the Kierkegaardian leap that lies at the heart of leaving one's homeland for the unknown. That kernel of faith, the idea of a promised land, and the stunning indifference that often waits on the approaching shore, is the point of departure for Italian filmmaker Gianni Amelio.
   "Lamerica" is set in the hellish modern wasteland of post-communist Albania. Two con men, Gino ("Farinelli's" Enrico Lo Verso) and Fiore (Michele Placido) arrive from Italy to set up a fake manufacturing company to bilk subsidies from the government. Amid the relentless poverty and decay, their trappings of small-time success--flashy clothes, a glimmer of jewelry and attitude, a tiny car shine like beacons. Over the airwaves, distant Italy itself is a spellbinding dream of game shows and pop music that flickers on the few working TV screens. When the corporation's figurehead (Carmelo Di Mazzarelli), a senile ancient plucked from a prison camp, wanders off, Gino is forced on a chase that strips him of all he has, even his identity; he becomes just another struggling refugee, intent on reaching the unreachable Italy.
   Shot entirely on location in Albania with mostly non-pro actors and a documentary-like feel, "Lamerica" vividly deals with a current political situation. But Amelio (as he did in his "Il Ladro Di Bambini" ["Stolen Children"]) also creates a deeply moving modern allegory that explores a recurring cycle. In this century, Italy has gone from Huddled Mass to Golden Door, and Amelio ruthlessly dissects the selfishness and amnesia that come with prosperity. But his universe also contains an evil no open-borders policy can dispel; what's needed is the human spirit that eternally believes in a promised land.    Starring Enrico Lo Verso, Michele Placido and Carmelo Di Mazzarelli. Directed by Gianni Amelio. Written by Gianni Amelio and Andrea Porporati & Alessandro Sermoneta. Produced by Mario and Vittorio Cecchi Gori. A New Yorker release. Drama. Italian-language; subtitled. Unrated. Running time: 116 min.
Tags: Enrico Lo Verso, Michele Placido, Carmelo Di Mazzarelli, Directed by Gianni Amelio. Written by Gianni Amelio, Andrea Porporati & Alessandro Sermoneta, Produced by Mario, Vittorio Cecchi Gori, A New Yorker release, Drama, small-time, poverty, decay, Albania, political
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