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The Man Who Wasn't There (2001)

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.

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Storyline

1949, Santa Rosa, California. A laconic, chain-smoking barber with fallen arches tells a story of a man trying to escape a humdrum life. It's a tale of suspected adultery, blackmail, foul play, death, Sacramento city slickers, racial slurs, invented war heroics, shaved legs, a gamine piano player, aliens, and Heisenberg's uncertainty principle. Ed Crane cuts hair in his in-law's shop; his wife drinks and may be having an affair with her boss, Big Dave, who has $10,000 to invest in a second department store. Ed gets wind of a chance to make money in dry cleaning. Blackmail and investment are his opportunity to be more than a man no one notices. Settle in the chair and listen. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

The last thing on his mind is murder.

Genres:

Crime | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for a scene of violence | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Details

Country:

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Language:

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Release Date:

16 November 2001 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Barber Project  »

Filming Locations:

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Box Office

Budget:

$20,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

£419,609 (UK) (26 October 2001)

Gross:

$7,494,849 (USA) (22 February 2002)
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

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Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

"Riedenschneider" is named after a character in the novel The Asphalt Jungle by W.R. Burnett. See more »

Goofs

When Riedenschneider is talking to Ed in the jail after receiving information from the private detective: "You can't know the reality of what happened, or what would have happened if you hadn't stuck in your own Goddamn schnoz. So, there is no 'what happened.' Looking at something changes it. They call it The Uncertainty Principle. Sure it sounds screwy, but even Einstein says the guy is on to something." However, Albert Einstein never accepted Werner Heisenberg's uncertainty principle as a fundamental physical law, stating: "Quantum mechanics is certainly imposing. But an inner voice tells me that it is not yet the real thing. The theory says a lot, but does not really bring us any closer to the secret of the 'old one'. I, at any rate, am convinced that He (God)does not throw dice." [Quantum Mechanics is based on laws of probability ... hence the reference to dice.] See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Ed Crane: Yeah, I worked in a barbershop, but I never considered myself a barber. I stumbled into it. Or married into it, more precisely.
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Crazy Credits

The opening titles cast shadows on the wall as if they are real. See more »

Connections

Referenced in True Blue Beauty (2003) See more »

Soundtracks

Some Enchanted Evening
Written by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II
Published by Williamson Music
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User Reviews

Great pastiche of the noir genre
19 July 2002 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

Ed Crane is a barber who quietly wants more from his life. When he meets a man with a business proposition he decides to go for it. He suspects his wife is having an affair with her boss and anonymously blackmails him – however things in noir are never straightforward and blackmail leads to murder and a series of events are sparked off around Ed.

I must say I'm surprised this is as high up the imdb charts as it is, but I'm not surprised by the lukewarm reception it had from multiplex audiences. This is a slow, moody homage where things just happen, rather than a neat `start-middle-tidy finish-bad guy dies' type thing. The Cohen brothers have a reputation for the old quirks and here is no different – mixing the steady noir narration with talk of haircuts and bingo makes for a strange if humorous mix. The plot is good but the noir feel mixed with weird going-ons may alienate many audiences.

Thornton is a perfect choice – his features fit well in the black and white shadows and his voice suits the noir narration. McDormand is good and Gandolfini gets another good role and does well. The support is very good – Badalucco, Shalhoub, Polito are all very good. Some elements of it are like a spot the TV face – we have Benrubi from ER, Higgins from Ally McBeal and Abundas from Six Feet Under all in small roles. It's even nice to see a cameo from McDonald.

Overall this isn't as funny as it was billed, simply because it is a noir. As such the Cohens mix the familiar themes of that genre with all new subjects and create a great effect.


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