Friday, July 22, 2011

The Man Who Cried

Directed by: Sally Potter
Produced by: Christopher Sheppard
Written by: Sally Potter
Starring: Christina Ricci/ Cate Blanchett/ Johnny Depp/ John Turturro/ Harry Dean Stanton
Music by: Osvaldo Golijov
Cinematography: Sacha Vierny
Release date(s): 2 September 2000 (Venice)
Running time: 100 minutes
Country: United Kingdom/ France
Language: English/ Yiddish/ Russian/ French/ Italian/ Romani/ Romanian

The Man Who Cried reminds me of another film, Map of the Human Heart (1993). Both the films are about finding love while travelling around the world under the looming shadows of the World War II. Yet, while I would call the Vincent Ward film a masterpiece, I am not sure how to react to The Man..

The Man Who Cried is an ambitious film, looks very good, so much so that you wish Emir Kusturica would have directed it. It is directed by Sally Potter and stars a marvellous cast of Christina Ricci, Johnny Depp and Cate Blanchett, among others. It is gorgeously photographed, and the soundtrack is perfect. Everything in their right places, yet...

As Roger Ebert pointed out, the film refuses to follow the law of probability and leads its heroine through a series of events from Russia to England, to Paris to Hollywood, in search of her father. And she actually meets him at the end. These all are very good. But the road is fraught with mis-steps: First, the casting. Depp is such a fantastic actor, especially in dramatic scenes, that it’s a crime to give him a role that requires him to sit on a horse and look bewildered. He looks maddeningly handsome and he is a pleasure to look at, but his Cesar remains an one-note character.

Then, there is the title. The title should have been, The Women Who Did Not Cry. Who’s is the man who cried? Is it the Depp character, who actually cries in a later scene or is it the heroine’s father, who, in his deathbed, actually cries as the film ends. And he’s there for a few seconds.

Anyways, the visuals help you sail through the gritty tale of Susan, who had another name, another language and another home. But before she could talk, her Jewish father from somewhere in Russia travels to America for a better future, as the daughter is left in the care of her grandmother. Then, the clouds of anti-Semitism thicken and her grandmother packs the girl and a few gold coins and a picture of her father, in search of a safe passage. She wants to go to American, instead lands in England, to be adopted, and to be sternly told not to speak in Yiddish.

So, she grows up, with just one dream in her eyes, to go to America to find her father. But, going to American costs money and to earn money, Suzie (now played by Ricci with her trademark nonchalance) travels to Paris, where she befriends beautiful Lola (a radiant Blachett), you know those cabaret girls who dream of marriage to a rich man. The rich man for Lola happens to be an Italian opera singer Dante (John Turturro, another case of miscast, though Turturro ties his best), whereas Dante has an eye for Suzie, and Suzie momentarily forgets the goal of her life and falls for a laconic gypsy, Cesar. Then, the Nazis come to power and Paris is under seize, and what not, if you are still interested in the fate of the characters.

Peter Bradshaw review in The Guardian
Neil Smith review in BBC
Elvis Mitchell review in The New York Times

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