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Overall Rating
4.02

Awesome: 35.37%
Worth A Look43.9%
Average: 9.76%
Pretty Bad: 9.76%
Total Crap: 1.22%

7 reviews, 40 user ratings


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Man Who Wasn't There, The (2001)
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by Stephen Groenewegen

"Shadows"
4 stars

The Coen brothers are threatening to become as prolific and distinctive filmmakers as Woody Allen.

Their latest, The Man Who Wasn’t There, is set in 1949 and shot by Roger Deakins in gloriously rich black and white (accentuating every shadow). It’s part crime film and part film noir homage. The structure, narration and ironic twist owe a considerable debt to movies like Tay Garnett’s 1946 The Postman Always Rings Twice. But it’s mostly about the journey of one man, the titular Ed Crane (Billy Bob Thornton).

Crane is a barber in Santa Rosa, California. Hitchcock chose the same setting for Shadow of a Doubt in 1942 because its suburban banality made it an unlikely location for a thriller. Crane suspects his wife (Frances McDormand) is having an affair with her boss (James Gandolfini), but his anonymous attempt at blackmail has unforeseen and disastrous consequences.

Crane barely registers with the people around him. He doesn’t talk much, so Thornton provides a laconic voiceover describing what’s in his head. Thanks to his skilful use of body language, Thornton seems to fade into the shadows. But he maintains life in his performance life through his voice. Despite the deadpan expression, Thornton is never dull to watch.

Crane’s relationship with a young music student reveals what moves him, and helps rationalise his fate. Scarlett Johansson impresses as the music student, an unlikely femme fatale, while McDormand is enjoyably quirky as Crane’s bingo-playing wife. Tony Shalhoub is marvellous as the fast-talking attorney, Freddy Riedenschneider (“I litigate - I don’t capitulate”).

The Man Who Wasn’t There is full of Coen brothers eccentricities and frequently funny. There’s a character who doesn’t blink, even when recounting a UFO experience. The plotting is complicated, but secondary to the characters, dialogue and sumptuous look (production design and costumes courtesy of Dennis Gassner and Mary Zophres respectively). Carter Burwell contributes a sublime score and the soundtrack also incorporates Beethoven’s Pathetique and Moonlight sonatas.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=5568&reviewer=104
originally posted: 01/14/02 08:13:26
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User Comments

5/26/11 matt the evil man doesn't believe he's evil. ed crane is insane. he justifies everything to hims 5 stars
2/27/11 Platypussy Drifts and drifts and drifts 1 stars
6/01/10 User Name Style over substance, Coens or not. 3 stars
5/28/10 PAUL SHORTT STYLISH THRILLER WITH GREAT PERFORMANCES 4 stars
1/25/09 Tony A quiet storm of ironic humor and delicate drama shot beautifully in black & white. 5 stars
10/05/05 Jesse Taylor One of the Coens' best films so far. Very dark. The cinematography is amazing. 5 stars
9/25/05 D Buckley God, the Coen boys are starting to suck... 2 stars
3/18/05 indrid cold The radically overrated Coens do a great job, or at least the cinematographer does. 4 stars
5/11/04 J.Peckerfoot makes you wonder why more black n white films arent made.beautifully shot,great cast. 5 stars
5/05/04 A F It was good. I love Scarlett. 4 stars
4/05/04 Miss Julie I think I'm in love with Billy Bob Thornton too. I didn't think that was possible. Riveting 5 stars
7/29/03 NBCraftsman A precise study of "light, shadows, cigarettes (&) Beethoven", Coen style... 4 stars
5/17/03 George Jung Great film with amazing acting. There is nothing wrong with this film. 5 stars
9/15/02 Joe Zappa (I'm Back!) A little overrated, but it's pretty cool. 4 stars
7/15/02 The Motherfucking Hell Nazi Yeah, the UFO seemed irrelevant. Scarlet Johannson is a treasure. Give her more roles 5 stars
6/10/02 The Bomb 69 too slow to keep my attention fully, interesting twist at the end, whats up with the UFO? 4 stars
5/26/02 I'm in (L) with a Jedi this was a beautiful film, and i think im falling for billy bob as well 5 stars
5/20/02 Phil M. Aficianado 5 Stars, minus one for the UFO side trip. What was THAT about? Mesmerizing and unique; fun 4 stars
4/26/02 Jeff Lecky your so right dave it hurts... good movie! 4 stars
4/25/02 Dave MacDougall it's no "Blood Simple" but it's worth seeing... 4 stars
4/23/02 Monday Morning Great looking film. Too bad it got slower and slower as it went on. 4 stars
4/19/02 Jubei It's an excellent b/w trip back to the film noir era with amazing direction, acting etc. 4 stars
4/18/02 Spyguy2 Is it over yet? NEXT!.... 2 stars
4/03/02 Edfink Lombardo The best film of 2001...Brilliantly written, acted, and directed...Darkly funny 5 stars
3/17/02 Teresa The characters kept doing the most unexpected things. 4 stars
3/02/02 Unagiboy A gorgeous film, visually and script-wise. 5 stars
2/28/02 Chowie beautiful film, great storyline, bawled my eyes out at the end, billy bob was great 5 stars
1/21/02 Geire Kami flawless 5 stars
1/03/02 ^Elendil^ ... and it's very funny. 4 stars
12/28/01 matthew smith a film to admire 4 stars
12/27/01 Belinda Great! Cast to perfection. 4 stars
12/13/01 Dominik Duprelle It IS a classy film, lovely photography, but I found it v slow personally.............. 3 stars
12/10/01 Neil Austin The Coens are Princes' among paupers. If only they could pump out films as quickly as Woody 5 stars
12/07/01 Philip (Flip) Kromer The longer it's been the more sense the movie makes... A deep work that stays with you 5 stars
11/15/01 Big D. Rivals Memento for best film of the year, this is a beautiful hitchcockian/coen hybrid. 5 stars
11/11/01 Robert Was it 'kinda boring'? Yes, but that was the entire point... 4 stars
11/10/01 Brian I thought this was a great film. Not only was the story great but it was beautifully shot. 5 stars
11/09/01 Martin Brooks The film was excellent, it simply flowed along to the relaxing mood enhancing music. 5 stars
11/02/01 ishwar ramani The camera movements are awesome and the film is very good in bringing out the cynicism 4 stars
10/30/01 Lucy Swan Beautifully shot, wonderfully lit, moodily atmospheric. Blacker than black humour... 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  31-Oct-2001 (R)

UK
  N/A

Australia
  26-Dec-2001




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