CLUAS - Irish indie music webzine
CLUAS on Facebook CLUAS on MySpace CLUAS on Twitter

Film Review: The Man Who Wasn't There

The Coen Brothers are certainly here with a new flick...

As a huge Cohen brothers fan I was in danger of loving this movie before I'd even stepped foot in front of the big screen. I can't help but feel excited at the prospect of the unknown to come, the only surety with the brothers being to expect a convoluted tale with more twists and entanglements then a bowl of knotted spaghetti. However, it was with an air of determined objectivity that myself and 3 of the other 4 Marys sat expectantly waiting for the show to begin...

Billy Bob Thornton in 'The Man who Wasn't there'And so i'ts curtain call and we meet the man who really isn't there - local barber Ed Crane (played by Billy Bob Thornton). You know the type, doesn't have much to say for himself, hasn't reached any particular station in life so to speak and the kind whose name, in-laws stumble over upon meeting him again. Billy Bob plays the part brilliantly with an unemotive, untouchable demeanour, yet displaying enough depth of character, aided in part by his first person narration, to keep us engaged in this introspective life of a chain-smoking stoical man.

Frances McDormand is Ed's oppositely attracted wife, who is having an affair with her boss - as played by James Gandolfini in recognisable crooked-guy-driven-by-money form. There is a strong supporting cast including Anthony Shaloub who stands out as the slick Sacramento lawyer Frankie Riedenschneider who is sets out to defend both Ed and his wife at different stages. What slowly unfolds is a tangential tale of double crossing, the futility of human nature and the eternal struggle between good and evil etc. All which ultimately see Ed spiralling down a slippery road to even further nowhere.

This movie is reminiscent of earlier Coen movies (Millers Crossing, Barton Fink) and an obvious nod to the era of 'genre' films. The film is presented in black and white but with an unusual brightness to it due to it being filmed on colour stock and it works fantastically well. There is a risk of the black & white-fearing population of Irish cinema audiences labelling the film in the arty farty bracket and avoiding it at all costs, but the really daring part was not in making it in B&W but in making a movie as ponderously slow paced as this. Some might argue that this is where the movie falls down, perhaps the couples who walked out half an hour into the movie and 15 minutes before the end (and one of the Marys who fell asleep) would agree....

Janey Mary

Subscribe to the CLUAS email newsletter:

E-mail address: number of newsletter subscribers

Check out as well the archive of newsletters we have sent out over the years.