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The Man Who Cried

movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: The Man Who Cried

Starring: Christina Ricci, Cate Blanchett
Director: Sally Potter
Rated: R
RunTime: 97 Minutes
Release Date: June 2001
Genre: Drama

*Also starring: John Turturro, Johnny Depp, Harry Dean Stanton, Claudia Lander-Duke, Oleg Yankovsky

Review by Harvey Karten
No Rating Supplied

Mr. Abramowitz, (Oleg Yankovsky), the title character who frames the picture, is an unimportant person from the point of the view of the film's photographer and director but is the most important person in the life of his daughter, Suzie, known as Fegele in the birthplace which has been her home for ten years. Suzie's attachment to her dad is almost Oedipal in intensity, but you can't blame her since the unfortunate fellow, a cantor in the small Russian shtetl of Borisov, was compelled to leave her behind when he departed for America in 1927 in search of a better life-- intending to make enough money to send for Suzie later on.

"The Man Who Cried" is yet another in the line of films with motifs dealing in part with the domination of Europe by the Nazis, which in the past year have included "Divided We Fall," "Into the Arms of Strangers" and "Left Luggage." (Add "The Crimson Rivers" to that list if you include the influence of Nazi thought on a modern-day French university.) While Sacha Vierny's photography is stunning, particularly when contrasting the dirt-poor village that housed the Jews with the opulence of an exquisite flat in Paris, and Osvaldo Golijov's lovely music a welcome antidote to "Pearl Harbor"'s deafening soundtrack, Herve's Schneid's editing gives the entire movie the look of a series of trailers tacked on to one another. Sally Potter, who wrote the script to "The Man Who Cried" as well, spends quite a long time in Europe slowly and painfully developing the story for its ultimate payoff--which proves to be almost anticlimactic in dramatic value.

Christina Ricci inhabits the role of Suzie, seen first at about the age of 10 (Claudia Lander-Duke) who, despite her mellifluous singing voice stands out by adopting the silence of the perpetual outsider. When Cossacks invade the town and burn the village, she escapes using the few gold coins that her father had saved in the sugar jar and though clueless about the destination of the ship, winds up not in America where she expects to reunite with her dad but in England. She is adopted by a Christian family with whom she remains until she leaves ten years later for Paris to work in a chorus line. Taken under the wing by another Russian, the gold-digging, Lola (Cate Blanchett), she acts like the proverbial locked-out college roommate when Lola begins an affair with an Italian opera singer, Dante Dominio (John Turturro), who has a contract with producer Felix Perlman (Harry Dean Stanton). Luckily for Suzie, though, she loses her virginity and gains a pair of starry eyes when she gains the attention of a handsome but often sullen gypsy (Johnny Depp).

Sally Potter, whose "Orlando" is an engrossing, imaginative tale of someone who lives for four hundred years--first as a man and then as a woman--comes across this time with a story as pedestrian as "Orlando" is innovative. None of her characters gets a three-dimensional treatment. Cate Blanchett's Lola is a caricature of the flirt and while John Turturro benefits from the excellent dubbing of an operative voice, Johnny Depp sleepwalks through his signature role as a gypsy. Christina Ricci's character is so repressed that we are unconvinced of her ability as a singer. Nor does she inspire Johnny Depp, with whom she conducts a ho-hum little love affair. She's adept at learning Yiddish, though, and that's a big plus for a nice, 20-year-old Santa Monica gal.

Copyright 2001 Harvey Karten

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