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The Man Who Wasn't There (2001)

Cast: Billy Bob Thornton, Billy Bob Thornton, Frances McDormand, more...
Director: Joel Coen, Joel Coen
    see all cast/crew...
Studio: Universal Studios
Genre: Neo Noir, Classic Crime, Crime, Classic Crime, Neo Noir
Running Time: 116 min.
Languages: English, French
Subtitles: Spanish, French
    see additional details...

Set in a sleepy Northern California town in the 1940s, Joel Coen and Ethan Coen's The Man Who Wasn't There stars Billy Bob Thornton as Ed Crane, a humble barber who suspects his hard-hearted and hard-drinking wife Doris (Frances McDormand) of having an affair with her boss (James Gandolfini). When a jocular stranger (Jon Polito) breezes into town hinting at the fortune to be made investing in an outlandish-sounding new invention called dry cleaning, Ed hatches a blackmail scheme he hopes will make him rich and get him some revenge at the same time. His plan goes horribly awry when he accidentally commits a murder for which Doris ends up being blamed, landing her in the slammer and Ed at the mercy of blowhard big-city lawyer Freddy Riedenschneider (Tony Shalhoub). Filmed in black-and-white by three-time Oscar-nominated cinematographer Roger Deakins, The Man Who Wasn't There was inspired by the seedy crime novels of James M. Cain, putting a distinctly Coen brothers' spin on the film noir tradition. Though spiked with their characteristic humor, its moody atmosphere hearkens back to the darker moments of Blood Simple and Fargo -- a marked departure from the high-spirited slapstick of O Brother Where Art Thou. ~ Tom Vick, All Movie Guide

You might also enjoy:
Blood Simple
The Coen's first foray into noir territory is near perfect

Shadow of a Doubt
Hitchcock visited Santa Rosa for this similiar creepy classic

The Postman Always Rings Twice
Memorable noir surely had some influence on the Coen update of similar story

GreenCine Member Reviews

Unique take on Film Noir by TAubuchon May 9, 2002 - 2:06 PM PDT
9 out of 9 members found this review helpful
This visually rich black and white explores the unexpected consequences of simple actions and chance encounters. As with all great film noir, the lack of color heightens ones visual imagination and draws you into this strange world. The stillness and subtleness of the film, makes for an enchanting feast of 'almost' still lifes of everyday objects in a less than everyday universe.

Billy Bob Thornton plays Ed the barber, removed, silent, ignored, trapped in random events that lead to the destruction of everything he encounters. His virtually silent performance is steeped with deep emotion and the few words and motions that do appear take great meaning and importance. Ed is utter sadness, isolation and tragedy.

Francis McDormand,James Gandolfini,Jon Polito all help to move the film which would almost stand still with out them. They add the necessary humor and action, to balance to Ed's quiet performance.

Francis is Ed's tough cookie wife, who desperately wants more out of life and marriage than Ed is capable of giving. She is a cold hearted, devious, drunk who is cheating on Ed with Big Dave(James Gandolfinini). Francis makes this character, funny, tragic and very human.

Jon Polito plays Creighton Tolliver a schemer who is desperate to start a chain of dry cleaning stores. Ed's obsession with dry cleaning, along with Jon Polito's performance are extremely humorous, in that dark ironic Fargo kind of way.

The Man Who Wasn't There is an excellent film that is fearlessly unique, yet pays homage to some of the great noir classics.

GreenCine Member Rating

(Average 7.07)
416 Votes
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Cannes Film Festival & More - 2001
Official Selection, Certain Regards... and more. Here is a bit more information on the films screened at the Cannes. I have attempted to list all the films that were considered for an award as well as any special screenings.
Noir Themes & Sinister Schemes
Dark themed films of murder, scams, cons, gangsters, femme fatales and nefarious deeds.

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