Thursday, March 15, 2007

THE MAN WHO WASN'T THERE (Alliance Atlantis 2001) Alliance Atlantis

The Coen Brothers, The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001) is a compelling film noir oddity. It stars Billy Bob Thornton as Ed Crane, a non-descript chain smoking barber working in his brother-in-law Frank’s (Michael Badalucco) modest establishment. Frank is a bore, but Ed is a man of few words, so the two get along splendidly. The same cannot be said for Ed and his wife, Doris (Frances McDormand) live obscurely in a typical Californian town circa 1949.

Ed knows Doris is unhappy. But he never would have suspected that she is having an affair. So, when slick city shyster, Creighton Tolliver (John Polito) blows into town, Ed decides to invest in his get rich quick dry cleaning scheme.

Instead, Tolliver takes off with the cash, forcing Ed into a precarious situation. He attempts to blackmail Doris’ boss, Big Dave Brewster (James Gandolfini) with the knowledge that he and Doris are having an affair, but accidentally kills Dave after a brawl ensues in his office.

Assuming he will be brought in for questioning, Ed is somewhat relieved when the police instead pin the crime on Doris. Enter high-priced attorney Freddie Reidenschneider (Tony Shaloub in an outstanding and sustained performance of sublime hilarity) who is determined to make precedence with this case.

The Coen’s screenplay is outstanding – drawing on the grit of noir style and immeasurably fleshing it out with exemplary B&W visuals that capture that bygone era. The cast are superb – particularly Thornton, who plays Ed as a man on the edge of admitting guilt, if only he could be assured that Doris would not get off. Darkly humorous and stylistically sound, The Man Who Wasn’t There is a film of stark senseless beauty. It’s a must see for those who appreciate a fairly captivating mystery yarn.

Alliance Atlantis’s DVD is rather satisfying. The B&W image exhibits a superiorly rendered, often starkly contrasted gray scale with exceptional tonality. Blacks are deep and solid. Whites are bright and occasionally blooming – though one suspects that to be the original intent of the photography.

Fine details are evident throughout. The audio is 5.1 Dolby Digital and delivers a very eerie sonic spread across all channels. Extras include an audio commentary, ‘making of’ featurette, interviews, deleted scenes, a photo gallery and the film’s original theatrical trailer. Recommended.

FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)



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