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Worth A Look: 26%
Average: 16%
Pretty Bad: 12%
Total Crap: 0%

4 reviews, 26 user ratings

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Man Who Cried, The
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by Collin Souter

"A welcome return to silent film"
4 stars

Dialogue can sometimes ruin a great movie. Too often these days, writers and directors feel it necessary to convey everything through dialogue, and I mean EVERYTHING! Think of how much “Pearl Harbor” would be improved upon if they shut all the characters up (and then abandon the project entirely. Never mind. Bad example). You know what I mean. Steven Spielberg once said that if you turn the volume down on a movie and can still follow the story, you have a great movie. Does that make a film by, say, David Mamet less of a movie? Certainly not, but I sometimes feel that to test the abilities of an actor, one should take away the words to see if they can really act.

“The Man Who Cried” should be approached as a classic silent film where the movement and emotion tell the story, with dialogue being used sparingly. This movie contains almost wall-to-wall music, all of it beautiful, a lot of it operatic. The film’s creator, Sally Potter, tells the story of a Russian immigrant through Italian arias, Phillip Glass-esque symphonies, lyrical camera moves, and most of all, with actors who can act.

Christina Ricci heads the cast with a performance that should raise the interest of directors who would like to cast her in more serious roles. I have always enjoyed her presence on film, but her venomous performance in “The Opposite Of Sex” cast a bit of a dark cloud over her. After that movie, many thought of her only as that white trash ‘yeah-whatever’ chick who never laughs. Not me, personally, but I have wanted to see her carry a movie that would make people forget the poisonous bite, even though I do enjoy the teeth marks. Here, she gives a subtle performance, almost wordless. She has the perfect face for silent film: Sad, suspicious, curious and in love, with constant shades of longing.

The movie opens with an image that tells her story in a few seconds, that of a girl who has to keep from drowning. The story starts in Russia, 1927. A little Jewish girl name Fegele lives happily with her father until he has to leave for America to find work. Soon thereafter, she too has to flee from the village as war engulfs her homeland. She ends up in England with her name being changed to Susie. To make matters worse, she can’t speak a word of English.

Ten years later, she has developed a gift for song (as her father did) and moves to Paris to join a chorus girl show. There, she meets Lola (Cate Blanchette) who happens to be Russian. Susie has become more English and she carries with her a picture of her father the only tangible memory of his existence. She tells Lola that she dreams only of going to America to find her father. Lola tells her that she’ll need lots of money and pinning a rich man down may be the best way to get it.

From her, Susie receives lessons in love, lessons we know Lola doesn’t really follow. Together, they join an opera headed by the egotistical opera great, Dante Dominio (John Turturro). Lola falls for him, but more so, she falls for his star quality. He can take care of her. Susie sees him as a bore. She does notice the strange Gypsy man named Cesar (Johnny Depp) in the show who rides the horse on stage. The two make extensive glances to one another, but rarely speak. He lives poorly as she did when she grew up in Russia. He lives in a village of homeless Gypsies. “These are all my kids and these are all my parents,” he says.

Meanwhile, World War II rears its ugly head and now every character must figure a way to escape the Nazis. Lola has married Dante and Susie has been left alone, though she finds more and more sympathy with the plight of the Gypsies. Soon, she has to find the strength to leave Paris on her own to avoid being killed for being of Russian Jewish descent. Dante wants nothing more than to become an ally to the Nazis so that he may continue singing. “Please, God, let the Germans win,” he says in a church.

Turturro gives a terrific performance here. So desperate and egotistical, he will perform the opera with no less than one chorus member on stage with him in front of three people. He could have very easily gone over the top with this performance, and though he does relish it, Turturro has always been an actor who knows when to reign it in. Blanchette does equally well, disappearing yet again into the skin of her character. She amuses us at first with her speech about how to win a man over, yet as the story progresses we see her as a desperate social climber. Still, she wins our sympathies. Depp might be accused of phoning this performance in, but he certainly looks the part and I can’t think of a better actor to help carry the sounds of silence alongside Ricci.

I have never been a fan of Potter’s work. I had a hell of a time getting into her first film, “Orlando” (I guess I’m afraid of Virginia Woolf). And “The Tango Lesson,” forget about it. Great black and white cinematography, but ZERO story. Something tells me she knew it and wanted to try something with traditional story elements that would also suit her visual style. However familiar this story may look, it seems like the start of something new for Potter. Perhaps next time she should try collaborating, or directing someone else’s material (like, say, Mamet) just as an experiment. I find it hard to tell where she wants to go as an artist or where she came from. Perhaps she doesn’t know any more than I do. Perhaps Ricci’s longing for companionship through war-torn Europe represents Potter’s desire for an audience. Perhaps.

The movie clocks in at 102 minutes, which does it a bit of a disservice. Surely, it could have been longer. Had they stretched out the ending, it might have been a bit more believable. In fact, I’m sure this story has many flaws. Perhaps I’ll notice them upon my next viewing. However, for those 102 minutes I sat and watched the perfect marriage of music, image and performance. I felt as though Krzystof Kieslowski came back from the dead to make another movie. Nothing to cry about there, but certainly worth speaking of.

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originally posted: 06/21/01 23:27:23
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User Comments

4/16/09 Bert Kaplan a warm, sad, evocative film-very moving 5 stars
1/13/09 Anonymous. a simple story that is emotional and beautiful. watch it. :] 4 stars
8/17/08 Samantha Pruitt great emotion, and sad yet beautiful, and johnny depp is hot!! 4 stars
6/23/05 love cate was good, but johnny was boring! 4 stars
6/22/05 keri its beautiful ,especially with Johnny Depp in it , it beomes realitistic he has abilities 5 stars
3/25/04 Lindaleriel slow, but beautiful and strangely captivating 5 stars
2/19/04 Sarah Smith I really liked it (tear jucker) 4 stars
1/27/04 stephanie louise parry it is very good 4 stars
12/14/03 Agent Sands (previously Mr. Hat) Eh. So-so. 3 stars
11/22/03 Wowed If you judge art by the amount of emotion it invokes, don't miss this. 5 stars
11/18/03 tamzine i loved it johnny depp is soooo cute 5 stars
11/17/03 Deppfan A beautiful movie all around; Johnny Depp puts in another awesome performance. 5 stars
10/08/03 Azeneth An excellent film.Christina Ricci acts wonderfully, and Jhonny Depp looks charming as usual 4 stars
9/26/03 Patch Absolutely brilliant. Johnny Depp is one of the few actors in hollywood with real ability. 5 stars
5/04/03 sleepy I loved it just because of Depp's close ups. I know..very shallow. 5 stars
4/19/03 aggelikh i have never seen something like that.Jhonny Depp is the best of the best 5 stars
4/27/02 hum the story is nothing new or special but this looks soo good you must watch it 4 stars
8/20/01 Sarah A great film, moving and dramatic, visual and visceral. 5 stars
7/20/01 nipper fabulous haunting and memorable 5 stars
7/11/01 sarah kerby-eaton stunning + the soundtrack is absolutely beautiful 5 stars
7/08/01 RAP Wonderful entertainment, great visuals, super music 5 stars
7/03/01 Robb Romanowski Few films have spurred me tears within their opening sequences, this one did and continued 5 stars
6/16/01 Aurelia Johnny is the HOTTEST GUY EVER!!!!!!!! 5 stars
6/09/01 Heather Great movie, has an authentic feel to it, Johnny Depp = sexy s.o.b. 5 stars
6/01/01 Sandra W. What a good film this would have been if someone other than Christina Ricci had been cast. 3 stars
5/14/01 Maribel Absolutely gorgeous movie that draws you into it's world from the word go. 5 stars
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  25-May-2001 (R)


  03-May-2001 (M)

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