Monday, October 27, 2014

Movie of the Week – The Man Who Wasn’t There

This week’s movie: The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001)

Ed Crane leads a simple life as a barber in 1950s small town America. He does not have much aspiration for anything more. He believes his wife is cheating on him with her boss, but does not much care. One day he hears about an exciting new opportunity: Dry Cleaning. Suddenly, he thinks: “Why not me?” To get the money for the opportunity, he blackmail’s his wife’s boss, threatening exposure of his affair; however, this sets off a chain-reaction of terrible events.

The Man Who Wasn’t There is one of the lesser known film from the Coen Brothers; but, it is one of their best. They work with their usually collaborators on the film, including: composer Carter Burwell, cinematographer Roger Deakins (whose photography is astounding), and production designer Dennis Gassner.

The film features a great cast made up mostly of Coen Brothers’ regulars. Billy Bob Thornton stars, while Frances McDormand, Michael Badalucco, James Gandolfini, Jon Polito, Scarlett Johansson, Richard Jenkins, and Tony Shalhoub feature in support.

The Coen Brothers are best known for films like Fargo, The Big Lebowski, No Country for Old Men, and more recently True Grit. The Man Who Wasn’t There is certainly among their lesser known films, if not completely forgotten among most fans. Like many of their films, The Man Who Wasn’t There is a weird blending of genres. It looks and feels like a noir, hard-boiled detective film, but the story is much more restrained than what is typically found in the genre. The film could be called a crime drama, but Ed Crane just sort of bumbles his way forward. In some ways, it is a comedy satirizing the hard-boiled detective noir style; yet, it is also in love with the genre too, stylistically speaking. The Coen Brothers and Roger Deakins shot the film in color and then processed it in black & white (in some countries you can actually see the film in color). It is fantastically photographed. The cinematography is easily among the decade’s very best. The film is a must-see just for the cinematography alone. The wry wit too is wonderful. The film is devilishly funny. I think it is well worth watching for fans of the Coen Brothers and those who enjoy the noir genre, as this is an odd and surprising entry.

Trailer: Here
Available on: DVD and Video On-Demand

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