The Man Who Wasn't There Reviews
To break out of his achingly dull life Ed decides to get involved with a businessman trying to start up a dry cleaning business. To get the money for financing, Ed blackmails his wife's boss who is having an affair with her. Of course, since this is both a noir and a Coen Brothers film, not all goes according to plan, and nothing is really quite as it seems.
This isn't the best film from the Coens, but it's still really good. It's by far their most serious work, but even then, there's still a shred of their trademark dry, dark humor and some really odd characters and weird things going on, mostly a motif involving flying saucers. Heck, even Ed himself is very much an alien with how he really doesn't seem to fit into the world.
The most striking thing about this film is definitely the look. Filmed in color, but printed in black and white, this is immediately their most strikingly gorgeous work from a visual standpoint. Unlike some modern films done in black and white, this actually does look and feel like a legit 40s film. It's an impressive job that was done by the production designer, costume designer, and the venerable director of photography Roger Deakins.
I could stare at this film all day and never tire of the great images it has to offer.
Give this one a shot. It's slow, odd, and deliberate, but a real underrated gem worth looking at. The performances are great, the music is wonderful, and it's just a great love letter to classic noir. Also, the commentary track is amazingly entertaining and funny in its own right.
I watched this not long after reading Ethan Coen's collection of short stories (Gates of Eden, 1998), and had this been in there, it would've been the best of the forgettable lot, but not nearly enough to save it. I give it two-and-a-half stars, which equal to one giant mmmeh.
The Man Who Wasn't There bored me to tears just as badly as it did in its initial run I'm sorry to say. The story is still too quiet and subdued for me to see how anyone can possibly be interested in it, but Roger Deakins' photography is nothing short of brilliant and breathtaking.
A film done in the style of noir about a Barber, it's from the Coen Brothers and it stars Billy Bob Thorton, what's not to like.
The whole movie is played throughout with narration by Billy Bob, who talks and talks about life basically.
A blackmailing plot ensues, involving Frances McDormand as the barber's wife, and James Gandolfini as her boss. This prompts other events to turn up in the story, including the appearance of Tony Shalhoub as a hot shot lawyer.
Reidenschneider: You say he was being blackmailed, by who? You don't know. For having an affair, with who? You don't know. Did anyone else know about it? Probably not, you don't know.
Another subplot also emerges, that features Scarlett Johansson as a local girl with talent at the piano.
Ed Crane: Time slows down right before an accident, and I had time to think about things. I thought about what an undertaker had told me once - that your hair keeps growing, for a while anyway, after you die, and then it stops. I thought, "What keeps it growing? Is it like a plant in soil? What goes out of the soil? The soul? And when does the hair realize that it's gone?"
The movie looks great, capturing the time of the 1940s, shown in black and white. Other little Coenisms show up including the casting and of course the dialog, making this an entertaining noir about a simple man.
Ed Crane: He told them to look not at the facts, but at the meaning of the facts. Then he said the facts had no meaning.
The story was a little slow for me here and there. I liked most of the characters but it seemed to be all over the place. There were whole parts of the story that I don't think served the plot at all.
It is your usual Coen brothers movie but they have done better.
Don't get me wrong - this movie is, in some regards, phenomenal. The performances are across-the-board excellent, and the cinematography is to die for. The decision to make this movie black and white gives it so much elegance and atmosphere that it found itself up for a Best Cinematography award at the Oscars. The dialogue is generally pretty good too, keeping the voices from becoming analogous and giving each character a distinctive noir aura.
The plot is just not interesting enough to allow this film to ascend to the true noir greats. Extortion, blackmail, murder. Typical noir tropes presented with very few frills. That's all well and good, but a two-hour character study only works very rarely, and The Man Who Wasn't There would have been a disaster if the plot was any less interesting. To put it in perspective, a single isolated (and ultimately useless) scene about one character's supposed UFO sighting is the most interesting scene in the film, just because it's DIFFERENT. It breaks the tedium of the material, the sameness. It's too bad we never see this character again. To its credit, the movie also has a very good ending, so at least the ride feels worth it. It's just not very memorable.