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Plot: A laconic, chain-smoking barber blackmails his wife's boss and lover for money to invest in dry cleaning, but his plan goes terribly wrong. Runtime: 116 mins Release Date: 16 Nov 2001
What a difference a good director makes! Billy Bob Thornton, who was sadly misused in Bandits, gets to recover himself in his brilliant characterization of Ed Crane in this film directed by Joel Coen. His performance is so detailed and subtle that he uses his face to great advantage in the close-ups while the narration goes on in the background. The use of black and white heightens the atmosphere of this 40s-style film noir. The brilliant cinematography is incredible in the use of shadows and dark tones that enhances the story to such an extent. Frances McDormand is incredible in the film as <more>
well. And what could one say about James Gandolfini? He gets better and better all the time. The atmosphere of the era is captured even in the small details. It's very refreshing to see the Coen brothers get over their last disaster of "State and Main" with such panache, aided of course by their star, Billy Bob Thornton and the ensemble cast and a great and ironic story.
one of the Coen brothers best, a film that becomes a masterpiece after a while. (by Quinoa1984)
Joel and Ethan Coens' The Man Who Wasn't There doesn't how could it top their first film-noir classic Blood Simple, but it is still an incredibly stylish and acted with pizazz type of film which should definitely get better with multiple viewings. Billy Bob Thornton turns in another top shelve job geniusly subtle, even for him as a quiet and observant barber named Ed, who gets drawn into an unfortunate string of events with his wife Frances McDormand who has cheated on him with Big Dave James Gandolfini who in his scattered minutes on the screen shows his ability for Oscar <more>
nomination-type work and with the usual line of events that would come from a noir comes compelling characters and set-pieces that show's Ed in a downfall though it is from a life the never wanted to lead in the first place. If Sartre decided to throw out the politics and religion and stick to the being and nothingness and write a hard-boiled novel, this might be it.In short, the Coen Brothers have once again struck a little gem in the rough, shot in black and white and stylized to a T. I feel like picking up a Cain book after watching this. And, on top of this, on repeat viewings I can say that it becomes even more engrossing, and just a bit more entertaining if really ready to dig into the atmosphere. It may be thick enough to kill a few stray kittens, but it's got a genuine pathos to it too. And just when you think there isn't enough Coen strangeness, wait till the aliens arrive. A+
I'm always there when they screen it (by Weredegu)
Besides being great stuff for film maniacs who like to debate the technical aspects, the cinematography or the artistic ideas and influences in it, 'The Man Who Wasn't There' is also a great film. One of my all-time favorites. The sort of film where the best possible choice of cast plays even the most insignificant walk-on role. The Coens' signature in there: being visually very conscious, especially for their film noir venture, they must have spent a huge amount of time to find the best possible faces for every single shot. Not necessary to waste words on how well they did in <more>
their choices for the lead roles. Fortunately these 'faces' they collected can also act, everyone does incredibly well here.'The Man Who Wasn't There' has a slowly developing story, that at first viewing may require your patience a little bit. But the second and third viewings and so on will be a lot smoother... I have seen the film about five or six times already. There's this weird TV channel that screens it just about every other week and I seem to always happen to be in front of the screen at the time, by mere chance. And I never zap away, I enjoy all the details more and more, and I feel the gloating that's there in the very cold, cruel humor of the film, as well as the saddening feeling it accumulates into, as you continue watching people acting as mere unidentified flying objects in the others' life, just as strongly as the first time.
Billy Bob Thornton has the perfect face for film noir. His craggy, drawn features lead up to sunken but large and staring eyes, and cheeks that look to be made out of plaster. Particularly when shot in black and white, his face becomes a landscape of shifting shadows, while he doesn't move a muscle. He is able to give the impression of a man at war with himself even while sitting perfectly still and staring ahead. He's Jeremy Irons, only without that unsettling accent. The Coen brothers take great advantage of their stars' granite physiognomy throughout "The Man That <more>
Wasn't There," constructing several shots around Thornton staring into a point just slightly away from the camera, impassive as an Easter Island head, moving only to smoke an ever-present cigarette while the obligatory noir voice-over narration runs. His voice is perfect, too: a kind of calm, measured rumbling, which describes incredible events but never seems amazed by them. Thornton says "I don't talk much," and it's true: he doesn't do much either, but he is still fascinating, and commands our attention.The Coens take great relish in the noir conventions, even beyond the 1940s setting and the black and white photography let's face it, we're so used to '40s movies in black and white that color would look a little weird . The story follows classic lines with a few wild divergences : Thornton's character is a barber in one of those small postwar California towns that Hitchcock was so enamored of. He comes up with a scheme to raise some money, which naturally spins a little beyond what he anticipated. That's all I can say in good conscience, and the plot goes pretty far afield I mean REALLY far afield, catering to fans both of Dashiell Hammett and "Earth vs. the Flying Saucers" . But really, you know what to expect, if you've ever seen one of these movies before: greed, dark secrets, and murder, in a world of fedoras, cigarette smoke, snapping lighters, and deep moral turpitude. A world where nothing or no one is what they seem, and the only sure thing is that, in the end, some sap is gonna get it.As good as Thornton is, he can't carry the movie alone. Fortunately, he is surrounded by a top-notch cast, including a lot of familiar Coen veterans, and it is this that really makes this movie work. Michael Badalucco puts in a hilarious turn as Thornton's gabby brother-in-law, Frances McDormand is effective in her relatively few scenes as his brittle wife, and James Gandolfini plays yet another boorish tough guy to a turn. Practically shoplifting the movie is Tony Shalhoub, playing a fast-talking Sacramento lawyer who doesn't so much speak as summate. His discussion of Heisenberg is almost worth the ticket price alone. Christopher Kriesa and Brian Haley get a lot of mileage out of their brief appearances as a pair of slightly dim cops aren't they all in these movies? Joel Coen, who directed, makes sure that the movie is consistently interesting to watch, too. Black and white photography being mostly about shades of gray, noir is perhaps the only genre that benefits from the relative primitiveness of its visual technology. Coen, therefore, sticks with it, unlike the colors he used in the '30s themed "O Brother Where Art Thou?" which managed to be both more fanciful and less surreal than this movie. He uses the light-and-shadow character of black and white to great effect here, carefully crafting his images to make best use of it. In fact, if the movie has a fault, it's that the images are a little TOO carefully crafted. The purest noir was cleverly filmed, but it allowed its cleverness to seep into the background. You have to watch a few times to pick up on how sharp the filmmaking is. Coen is unable to hide his arty cleverness, and so in the end, fun as it is to watch, the movie is a bit too pretty to truly capture the essence of its forbears. Perhaps realizing this, the Coens tweak the conventions mercilessly, and inject a streak of humor that is funnier for being played so straight there are lots of funny lines, but don't be surprised if you are the only one in the theater laughing. Actually, don't be surprised if you are the only one in the theater, period. The movie does require a bit of patience; the pacing is intense but quite slow, and the story wanders like a drunk driver. In the end, it is somewhat debatable whether the twisty plot is fully resolved, or whether that even matters. "The Man That Wasn't There" is best viewed as a wicked cinematic joke, and in that regard, it succeeds, in Sam spades.But what do I know? I'm just some sap.
It is beautifully and refreshingly unpretentious. It is acted and filmed with grace and delicacy. This is the kind if movie we hope to find while sitting through most of the glitz and superficiality that gets made. Without question worth eight bucks, and two hours of your evening. Score another one for the Coen brothers.
A living, breathing specimen of a species we thought had been extinct for decades (by Spleen)
I'm sorry, but I like my black and white black and white - ESPECIALLY in a film that sets out to be the most pure film noir of all. The shadows should be, simply, black, not black tinted with dark green. The greys should be, simply, grey, not pearl grey or slate grey or any of the other shades of paint-catalogue grey that are the result I presume of trying to make a black and white film without using any actual black and white film. I don't know the precise technological explanation; I do know that the film would be at least twice as good if the Coens would simply take the master <more>
print and transfer it to whatever material they use when they screen, say, "Double Indemnity". This is not hyperbole.Not that it's not good already. Joel Coen, who in "O Brother, Where Art Thou" showed himself to be one of the few living directors capable of fully exploiting colour, shows himself here to be one of the few living directors capable of fully exploiting light and shade. I particularly liked the scene where the defence lawyer explains why if we look at something too closely, we fail to see it, while his face and only his face is bathed in JUST enough too much light to prevent us from seeing it properly. It sounds academic, but it works: the Coens never use an idea if they can't make it breathe.As a rule, first-person narration breathes life into books but kills films - with the exception of one genre: film noir. And the Coens understand why it works, when it does, in this rare exception. Like most noir protagonists, Ed Crane Billy Bob Thornton is almost perfectly uncommunicative: neither his conversation nor his actions tell us anything about him. We need direct access to his very thoughts, put into words, to be able to understand what's going on and to appreciate his story. And it's only fitting that we're allowed to listen to him as HE takes stock of his own story, for the very first time, now that it's all over. -And maybe the Coens don't even need this justification. Ethan has written what may be the most delicious, perceptive and apt first-person voice-over the genre has seen."The Man Who Wasn't There" is not as magnificent an achievement as "Barton Fink" or "O Brother, Where Art Thou" - but then, no noir film is. It's really a constricting genre; Billy Wilder's finest works aren't noir, either. The fact that there are so many good noir films should be regarded as a miracle. Here is another miracle.
Great neo-noir film by the Coen brothers (by TBJCSKCNRRQTreviews)
I haven't seen too many films by the Coen brothers Ethan and Joel Coen ... in fact, this and Intolerable Cruelty are the only ones I've seen. I decided to see this after hearing many positive things about it, and finding out that it's a tribute to the old 'noir' films of the 40's and 50's. I love noir films, and neo-noir films are often great as well. So I decided to see this film, and I'm am very happy that I did. The plot is great... something that we all can relate to, and yet very recognizable for noir... which is quite impressive, since many noir films <more>
suffer from the plot being of limited appeal the P.I./detective who gets *the* case, etc. . The pacing is excellent. I wasn't bored for a second. The atmosphere of the film is great... very dark and moody, even in the humor. The acting is great... Thornton, McDormand, Gandolfini, Johansson, Shalhoub... everyone is great. Billy Bob Thornton's character is easy to relate to who hasn't felt that their life wasn't going anywhere, at one point? and his narration as well as flawless performance is part of what makes the film noir... his character talks very little, but the voice-over and his subtle acting which includes very little dialog is great and he carries the movie perfectly. The characters are all well-written... there was only a short period where I didn't entirely understand a characters actions, but this was more because I hadn't thought that much about this particular character than a lack of credibility, character-wise. The story is great... it has some very interesting twists, and it holds your interest and entertains you for the entire run-time of about 1 hour and 45 minutes. The humor is good, but there is fairly little of it in the film considering that this is what the Coen's are well-known for... well, part of it, anyway but all of it fits perfectly. Much of it is dark, like the rest of the film. I watched this on a DVD which I borrowed from the library, and when I was about to start the film, I noticed that there were two disks... one in black/white, and one in color. I thought for a while, considered which would be better, but then I remembered that this is a homage to noir films... and, possibly more importantly, the directors intention is to make something that looks as if it could have come from that period where those films were at the peak of popularity... and why would I want to go against the directors intention on a film? That would negate the very point of watching it. All in all, if you're a fan of the Coen brothers directorial style or neo-noir/film noir, you'll most likely love it as much as I did. If not, maybe you can just enjoy the great acting and atmosphere. And if not that, the film probably just isn't for you. I recommend it to any fan of the Coen brothers and of film noir/neo-noir. Fans of any of the actors might also like it. Just be prepared; it is quite dark, and many will not like it simply for that. If you believe you can sit through this film, you definitely should consider it. 8/10
Noir has always been about people caught in circumstances where there seems to be no way out and one bad decision may spawn a series of events that eventually catch up with the people involved.In this story, Ed Crane Billy Bob Thornton, channeling Humphrey Bogart through his looks and Fred MacMurray through his voice-overs is the victim of his own life. Caught in a dysfunctional marriage of apparent convenience to Doris Frances McDormand , working a dead-end job as a barber with her brother, going through life like a shadow people have a tendency to forget his name , he also suspects <more>
Doris may be having an affair with her boss Big Dave played by James Gandolfini . When a deal comes by which could make him some big money, he thinks he will carry this through and get some revenge towards his wife. Things go wrong -- the man with whom he has jumped into a shady business has disappeared -- and Crane accidentally or out of rage commits a murder which lands Doris in jail.To say more of the story would be to reveal twists and turns of the plot as it advances towards its full-circle and those must be experienced instead of told in a "review." But suffice to say, every action generates a consequence, and even plot threads which had been apparently been dropped eventually re-surface with tremendous, almost painful irony and remind us that noir is an unforgiving genre, unkind to its characters, cruel to the extreme. If at times the story seems a tad long it's in the subplot involving Scarlett Johansson who coats the movie with a Lolita-esquire persona as her character essays a tentative affair with Crane; however, even that storyline feeds into Crane's retribution at the end.Gorgeous black and white, textured use of deep-focus, this is a movie Gregg Toland would have loved to have his hands on had this been 1941 instead of 2001. THE MAN WHO WASN'T THERE could be called stylistic in its frank depiction of textbook noir James Cain comes to mind , but the Coen brothers make it work all the way through with smart direction, scenes that smolder, and a touch of their own unique humor interspersed here and there. Not their best but very, very close.
The Coen Brothers have their place in the cinematic lexicon. They're the clever jokesters of the movies and have given us many great movies. However, I really wish they would evolve. Sure, their films are a lot of fun, but they generally end up as nothing more than an entertaining joke. Only two of their films, in my opinion, achieve anything more, Barton Fink and Fargo, but even they only walk a few steps past that line.The Man Who Wasn't There for a long time suggests that it might end up being the best Coen Brothers movie. It seems to have depth past the cynical parodies and <more>
absurdities. Unfortunately, after about one third of the film has past, it loses focus and runs towards easy jokes and cutesy quirks as if it were a burly man who almost revealed something about himself after a night of heavy drinking. In particular, the UFO subplot really should have been cut. And they didn't need the young pianist's seduction near the end. It felt forced. Sure, what results in the film is very entertaining, but it felt like something profound was about to be revealed.The film is a quality product, as you would expect. Billy Bob Thornton is great. He gave two of the best performances of 2001, the second in Monster's Ball. His character is interesting, but that is one of the major areas that the script pulled back on before it could say enough to make it fascinating. Francis MacDormand is great, but she has far too little screentime. The Brothers obviously wanted to focus on Thornton, but it should have centered less on him than his relationship with his wife. A flashback nearer the end of the film hinted at that depth once again, but it was not pursued.I haven't said too much good about the film, though I've already scored it in my summary. Truth be told, The Man Who Wasn't There is an enormously entertaining and funny film. It contains some of the Coen Brothers' subtlest humor. It helps to be a classic Hollywood lover, especially of film noirs. The name of the store, for instance, Nirdlinger's, is a reference to Double Indemnity. It's also worth seeing for some excellent black and white cinematography. It's always been obvious that the Brothers have wanted to make a film in B&W, and here it is. It is a glorious achievement in that particular aspect of the art of filmmaking.