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A Letter to Elia (2010)

A documentary on the late Elia Kazan.
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Nominated for 1 Primetime Emmy. Another 1 win. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview:
Martin Scorsese ... Himself - Narrator
Elia Kazan ... Himself (archive footage)
Elias Koteas ... Elia Kazan (voice)
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Storyline

Director Martin Scorsese speaks candidly and passionately about one of his formative filmmaking influences: the late Elia Kazan. Utilizing precisely chosen clips from Kazan's signature films including "On the Waterfront," "A Streetcar Named Desire," "Gentleman's Agreement," "Baby Doll," "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn," "A Face in the Crowd," "America, America," and "The Last Tycoon," and interview footage of the director himself, co-directors Scorsese and Kent Jones recount the director's tumultuous journey from the Group Theatre to the Hollywood A-list to the thicket of the blacklist. But most of all, they make a powerful case for Kazan as a profoundly personal artist working in a famously impersonal industry. Written by alfiehitchie

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Genres:

Documentary

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Not Rated
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Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

4 October 2010 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Elia Kazan Documentary See more »

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Sound Mix:

Mono
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Connections

Features Panic in the Streets (1950) See more »

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User Reviews

A celebration of our greatest American Director
29 March 2019 | by random-70778See all my reviews

First off let's take a moment to talk about the criticism of Kazan's actions during the blacklist and get that out of the way. Kazan is considered by the top directors in the world to be the best of all of them for good reason, but no discussion of Kazan can leave out some issues arising from the the HUAC -- and the cultural context. Let me just say that as a lifelong fan of Peter Greenaway I made it a point to see the premier of his "Eisenstein in Guanajuato" (Greenway has an upcoming "Eisenstein in Hollywood" as well). It is interesting that one of the actors I saw gushing to the press about that film and Eisenstein in general, was one of the nastiest critics of Kazan getting the honorary Oscar in 1999. Excuse me, but Kazan named 8 names -- of Stalin lovers like Trumbo when Stalin aficionados were were no different than Nazis -- while Eisenstein fawned over Stalin, worked directly with the KGB and its predecessor organ, and betrayed moderate socialists and communists and got them KILLED. Eisenstein was a great director -- AND an active participant in murder of dissidents, as well as jailing and torture off artists in the USSR -- quite of few of whom he secretly denounced to the KGBd knowing they would not be blacklisted - but subject to violence, imprisonment and often death. From the Soviet archives released after 1999 brouhaha with Kazan, we now know for a fact that two of the people Kazan named were in fact direct soviet agents, not just people who went to a meeting or two, but people who were collecting blackmail against others for the benefit of the KGB and directly working with the KGB. Kazan harmed the career path of people who were stalinists. What he did was no different than than "doxing"/naming Nazis. What Eisenstein did was hlp the KGB murder people, yet Eisenstein's participation in politics of totalitarianism is never fully told.

So let's face facts. There is a clear double standard. Modern Hollywood celebrates artists who adored Stalin, and quite a few who directly worked for that evil apparatus vs and people like Kazan, whose sins, if they were even sins, were trivial in comparison.

As to the rest of this film, Scorsese acknowledgement of the influence and inspiration of Kazan is instructive and inspirational for all film lovers. Scorsese touches on the dual incredible sensitive of Kazan as an artist, creator, and his incredible understanding and portrayal of the human condition combined with his perseverance that allowed him to survive. One hour is a very short time to cover Kazan's accomplishments. I suggest Kazan's own award winning and brutally honest autobiography, but Scorsese's love letter is a good start.


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