The Man Who Wasn't There (2001)    
Coen Brothers: different stuff

Let me first apologize in advance for this lackluster review. I think I'm getting too old for this. So whatever I say here may be even less accurate than usual. In any case, attack first, pleasantries later: The whole film is a tribute to Orson Welles' Touch of Evil whether they meant it or not. The pansy businessman even looked like Mr. Grandee from TOE. And the fortune teller didnít really add anything to the film as it certainly did with TOE.

     "Come on, read my future for me."
     "You haven't got any."

This was the exchange between Orson Welles and Marlene Dietrich (as a gypsy fortune teller) in TOE. Again, a nice tribute, but why not just go and rent TOE like the Cohen brothers did. The walking in slow motion/watch the smoke rise scenes were straight out of Wong Kar-Wai's protracted music video In the Mood for Love, but it seems contrived in this film. As they would say, 'just skip it.' But if you want dark humor and psychological satire, why not just go to the source and watch Dr. Strangelove? I mean, if you want to watch TMWWT because you've already seen Strangelove a thousand times this month, then go right ahead. But if you havenít seen Strangelove lately, then please, 'just do it as a favor to me.'

Pleasantries: The film's main worth lies in its several highly sculpted characters. The lawyer and the French music teacher were inspired performances. Billy Bob Thorton wasn't bad either. And there was good detail. I particularly enjoyed the tiny little sink set in the spacious music studio. Fantastique. And then there was the whole Lolita threadóalso more black and white Kubrick. But it did go its own way certainly as the scene in the car was pretty wild to say the least. And for that, I applaud them. This is one thing they do well. They show you the reality, all up close and personal-like, in their own stylized way. Not everything is 'mis en scene' or whatever they call that off the screen action thing. I do appreciate blood pooling on wooden floors and so forth. 'Slicing up eyeballs, uh ho ho ho'. And their use of Beethoven's piano sonatas was the most forthright since 32 Short Films About Glenn Gould.

The film was very well shot. I mean these are pros after all. They had good angles and some great lighting. The film just didn't inspire. It lacked a certain grip. And actually, this reviewer is not concerned with audience identification with the main character (i.e. whether or not we care about his fate), because that's not always necessary. I mean, I didnít really care what happened to the people in Strangelove either. Oh, I suppose you could argue that we relate to the frustration of the Peter Sellers characters as they met one absurdity after another. Maybe it does matter. Screw it. I'm renting The Lion King.

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