The Man Who Wasn’t There

THE LAST THING ON HIS MIND IS MURDER. 

California, 1949; discreet barber Ed Crane (Billy Bob Thornton) decides to take a chance and invest money in this new invention called dry cleaning, but the only way he can raise the cash is to blackmail his wife’s boss (James Gandolfini). A noir thriller inspired by James M. Cain novels, with distinct Coen brothers touches, that has a few very effective shots by Roger Deakins, good performances (Jon Polito is terrific as the man behind the dry-cleaning scheme) and a sense of humor. It also has oddball ingredients that may seem more distracting than rewarding, but the story draws you in and the Coens wrap it up in a neat, poetic-justice way.

2001-U.S. 116 min. B/W. Produced by Ethan Coen. Directed by Joel Coen. Screenplay: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen. Cinematography: Roger Deakins. Cast: Billy Bob Thornton (Ed Crane), Frances McDormand (Doris Crane), James Gandolfini (Big Dave Brewster), Michael Badalucco, Katherine Borowitz, Jon Polito… Scarlett Johansson, Richard Jenkins, Tony Shalhoub.

Trivia: Shot in color, then printed in black and white.

BAFTA: Best Cinematography. Cannes: Best Director.

Last word: “I wanted to have more tonal range than a lot of old American film noirs. The Alan Ladd/Veronica Lake movies, they’re quite bold, the mid-tones are reduced, very black and white. In this, I wanted to use a wider palette. When we go to the jail and Billy Bob is talking to Fran across the table; I wanted it to be sort of a pastel grey look rather than strictly black and white. I wanted to be able to create a lot more different looks than you find in the John Alton films.” (Deakins, Indiewire)

 

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