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
Ed Crane is approached to invest in a "new" technology/ business idea - dry cleaning. In fact, dry cleaning had been a flourishing business since the early 20th century, a key principle of the process having been discovered in the mid-19th century by a French inventor. A town as large as Santa Rosa CA (the setting) would certainly already have had 10 or more dry cleaners by 1949. See more »
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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Special thanks to citizens and merchants of Orange, CA and The Bungalow Heaven Neighborhood - City of Pasadena, CA. See more »
Though original intended to be released in black and white, the movie was originally shot in color. Some countries released the movie in color (e.g. Japan) for marketing reasons. Both versions are released on home media. See more »
A beautifully shot "Film Noir" in black and white but with colorful characters
The 2002 Cohen brothers film is a delight. "The Man Who Wasn't There" combines everything I like in the Coen brother's unique way of telling a story. From the comic of the situation witnessed in the famous "O Brother Where Art Though" (2000) to the originality of the scenario seen in "Barton Fink" (1991), not to mention the singularity of the characters and their lack of control over the situation in the excellent "Fargo" (1996), all those "hints" have been gathered to built this well thought story. Joel and Ethan directed and wrote this picture about a bored and boring chain-smoking barber admirably played by Billy Bob Thornton (best role for this under-rated actor)who blackmails his wife's boss and lover for money to invest in dry cleaning. As you sense the plan goes terribly wrong. I believe this story is a pretext to show us how little is our grip on the reality of our lives. And to demonstrate how justice easily becomes a comico-pathetic masquarade when given by men. On the contrary true Justice eventually lies in the wrinkles of men's destiny. As a conclusion you are better off expecting a landing of an alien spaceship than a fair and clear trial in a court of law. Whether we agree or not to this demonstration, it does not take away the pleasure of watching these terrific actors putting into play the original and dark scenario of the two brothers. Billy Bob Thornton is a master portraying to perfection Ed Crane (the laconic barber). Since Dead Man (1995) I don't recall a lot of movies where directors have capitalized on his enormous talent. Frances McDormand (Doris Crane) is as usual fantastic. We remember her in Wonder Boys (2000) and of course as the sheriff in Fargo (1996). Here she plays wonderfully the barber's wife going from bitterness to sorrow. Some characters can be seen as "cliche" like Freddy Riedenschneider the lawyer played by the good Tony Shalhoub, however they are all enjoyable to watch: James Gandolfini is terrific as "Big Dave" and Jon Polito very colorful as Creighton Tolliver, not to forget the very talkative and sincere Michael Badalucco as Franck Raffo or the great job done by Scarlett Johansson in the role of Rachael 'Birdy' Abundas the not very straight and quiet adolescent you would expect. The Black and White picture is more an artistic exploration from the Coen brothers and I don't think has anything to do with the chosen period (late 40's). However the black and white picture is very well shot by Roger Deakins and impose tremendously well Billy Bob Thornton's character and therefore never becomes a burden for the audience. "The Man Who Wasn't There" does not belong to any genre in particular. The Movie is made of a myriads of genres and characters that the Coen brothers have managed to master throughout their career of story tellers. The movie is a "film Noir" but not only, it is a dark comedy but not only, it is a light thriller but not only, it is shot in black and white but still have colorful characters, it tells a simple story of a laconic barber but there is more to it, eventually Justice will prevail but not the way we think it will. In the end it is a unique movie and in times where everything seems to look the same this movie becomes a true jewel.
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