Carol Kane is extraordinary as a Jewish immigrant arriving in late 19th-century New York in the restored version of this evocative 1975 gem.
It’s 1896 and Gitl (Kane) arrives with her young son Yossele (Paul Freedman) to live in a tenement apartment on Manhattan’s Lower East Side with a husband (Steven Keach), whom she hasn’t seen in some three years. In that time, Jake has embraced the new world and regards his wife as a throwback to a culture that he desperately wants to forget. For her part, Gitl finds adapting to the new life a painful challenge, too attached to the traditions of her former community to envelop herself fully in New York’s modernity.
A tale set in the city’s Gilded Age but focusing more on the tarnished lives of the working class and downtrodden, Joan Micklin Silver’s portrait of Gitl and the alienation she experiences in this new world is gorgeously shot in black and white – the images resemble photographs taken during that era. Kane is excellent, channelling the film’s melancholy tone while investing Gitl with a degree of empathy that only heightens the emotion of scenes with a husband who wishes she no longer existed.