Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Man Who Wasn't There

The Man Who Wasn't There; Crime drama, USA, 2001; D: Joel Coen, S: Billy Bob Thornton, Frances McDormand, Jon Polito, James Gandolfini, Tony Shalhoub, Michael Badalucco, Scarlett Johansson

A small town in California, late 40s. Barber Ed Crane lives a normal life until some man called Creighton suggests him to open a revolutionary new chain of dry cleaning. In order to get 10.000 %, Ed anonymously blackmails friend Dave about his affair with another woman. But Dave discovers and attacks him. In self defence, Ed kills Dave. But the police arrests Ed's wife Doris who commits suicide in prison. At the same time, Creighton is found dead so the police also wrongly arrests Ed and executes him.

The 9th film by the Coen brothers is a sympathetic homage to the old noir films that was nominated for 3 Golden Globes (best motion picture - drama, actor Billy Bob Thornton, screenplay) and for the Golden Palm in Cannes, where it won the award for best director. Admittedly, "The Man Who Wasn't There" isn't a completely outstanding film due to many recycled Coen motives and an overstretched and pointless last third, but it's extremely introverted, stylish, smooth and deprived from some escapades of the Coens, found in some of their films like in the sometimes pretentious "Fargo". The black and white cinematography is fantastic and many jokes are subtly funny: for instance, the hero Ed starts narrating in once scene: "Me and my wife went to the church once a week. Mostly Tuesdays." In another instance, he observes the sleeping Doris and again starts narrating: "Doris suggested we should get married...", but is then suddenly interrupted by a phone call from Dave. He goes to meet him. Dave attacks him so Ed kills him in self defence and returns to the sleeping Doris - and continues with his narration just there where he stopped: "Doris suggested we should get married...". A really well made film, even though some of Coen's elements were so recycled they became cliches.


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