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BOOKS 8L THE CULTURE Immigrant Sagas BY STEVEN G. KELLMAN GREEN CARD Directed by Peter Weir THE GODFATHER PART III Directed by Francis Ford Coppola THOUGH HE HAD never met her and though his taste for mates did not tend toward women, W. H. Auden mar ried Thomas Mann’s daughter Erika in order to provide her with a British passport to escape from the Nazis. George Faure \(Gerard Andie convenience; George, a Frenchman, seeks to stay in the United States beyond the six weeks permitted by his tourist visa, and Bront will do anything to move into a co-op restricted against unmarried tenants. “You don’t even have to see him again,” promises the mutual friend who brings them together for a conjugal charade. “Good luck with your life,” says George, shaking Bronte s hand and walking off into the streets of New York after concluding the paperwork. That, of course, is not that, and Green Card, written and directed by Australian Peter Weir, becomes a reverse romance, in which the Immigration and Naturalization Service serves as matchmaker to a couple who fall in love after marrying. Like White Palace, which paired Susan Sarandon with a much younger James Spader, Green Card is the story of an odd coupling. What separates George and Brontd is not only language and nationality but class and personality. The son of a mechanic, George dropped out of school at 10, spent time in prison for car theft, and acquired several tattoos. Bront, the fastidious daughter of a writer who named each of his children after writers, cannot abide his smoking and muddling in her apartment when the two contrive to live together for a weekend to overcome the suspicions of the INS. She is delicate and petite, he gangling and maladroit what, in one of many fits of exasperation, she calls a “silly French oaf.” A committed environmentalist, Bront belongs to Green Guerrillas, an activist group that plants trees in inner-city neighborhoods. “Go to the country if you want trees,” quips George. The federal document that authorizes per. manent residency is now pink, but the env i Steven Kellman teaches comparative litera ture at the University of Texas at San Antonio. 22 JANUARY 11, 199 ronmentalist subtext of Weir’ s film gives him poetic license to use Green Card as a title anyway. It is to get an apartment with a greenhouse that Bronte, an expert in horticulture, pretends to be the wife of a foreign carnivore who scorns her muesli as “birdseed.” Her boyfriend Phil an earnest vegetarian, shares her dedication to greening the city, but it is the slob who gets the girl, precisely because he is so exotic. “He eats life,” Bronte tells the INS investigator who wants to know why she married George. Conscientious Phil merely nibbles it. Nice guys finish last, the Amazon basin be dammed. “Every woman adores a fascist,” sneered Sylvia Plath, and Weir seems to be suggesting that women really love the global rapists. George and Bront compose bogus love letters to each other to create a paper trail documenting a relationship that the INS has begun to suspect, and the scene might recall Depardieu’s most recent French performance, as Cyrano de Bergerac, the wistful master of love through letters. As though the expression of emotion creates emotion, it is through those letters that George and Bront conceive love for each other. Beware of the parts you choose to play, lest they end up being you. Green Card brings not only George, an itinerant cook, but Depardieu, the prolific European actor, to America, for what is his first important English-language role. He is a welcome guest in any production, but there is no compelling need for Depardieu to abandon French cinema for Hollywood, just as George seems ultimately nonchalant about blundering in his INS interview and having to admit that his application for permanent residence is based on fraud. He did not, after all, flee Cambodia by boat or El Salvador by luck. Green Card is not especially interested in the politics of immigration. This is not EINorte or even Alamo Bay, but a comedy drama that uses citizenship as a premise for a study in character. The INS agents who interview George and Bront separately, in a kind of Newlywed Game montage of incompatible information, are not governmental ogres but dedicated professionals who are sympathetic to true love but simply cannot ignore the fact that George does not know where the bathroom is in the penthouse he claims is his. In the end, Bront realizes she has found her Heathcliff, but it is too late. While “Everything’s gonna be all right” is sung by the Emmaus Group from the song “Eyes on the Prize,” George is led off for deportation. If George and Bront live happily ever after, it will not be together in New York. Unlike the screenplays for The Russia House and The Bonfire of the Vanities, which alter the ambiguous or cynical conclusion to their novels with a happy resolution of sorts, Green Card is honest enough to acknowledge that sometimes a melting pot means that someone put the wrong utensil into the microwave. NEASY LIES the head that wears a crown,” declares Shakespeare’s Henry IV, tormented by the dreadful price he has paid to cover his pate and fearful of the ruthless rivals who would seize the crown by severing his head. At the outset of The Godfather Part III, the third installment of an American dynastic drama that comes as close as Faulkner to the resonance of Shakespeare’s history plays, one clan. One brother, Sonny, was murdered by underworld opponents and another, Fredo, died on the orders of Michael himself. Intent on ruling by his head not his gut, Michael views himself as a sensible, practical man, one for whom the word reason is almost as important as family. “His temper clouded his judgment” is Michael’s verdict on brother Sonny’s failure. “Never hate your enemies,” he tells a disciple, not out of any Christian precept of boundless love. “It affects your judgment.” It is 1979, and Michael’s judgment is that the family’s interests are now best served by directing its assets toward legitimate enterprises. “I’m a businessman first and foremost,” he insists, after ceding their underworld empire to a thug named Joey Zasa do with me?” asks Michael when his nephew him to mediate a dispute over criminal operations. Michael learns that it has everything to do with him, that he will never be able to escape the violence he has abjured. “Give me a chance to redeem myself, and I will sin no more,” Michael pledges, naively, at the casket of a murdered friend. Like the biblical David, who built his house with blood, Michael can never cleanse himself enough to be worthy of the Temple, and the more he tries the more he implicates himself further in villainy. been the Solomon to Michael’s David, the virtuous heir more worthy of the crown than the ancestors who acquired power through iniquity. However, Tony has been brought up