The Man Who Wasn't There

The Man Who Wasn't There

name=The Man Who Wasn't There

writer=Joel Coen
Ethan Coen
starring=Billy Bob Thornton
Frances McDormand
Michael Badalucco
Richard Jenkins
Scarlett Johansson
Jon Polito
Tony Shalhoub
and James Gandolfini
director=Joel Coen
Ethan Coen (uncredited)
producer=Ethan Coen
Joel Coen (uncredited)
distributor= USA Films
Working Title Films
Good Machine (Sales)
Entertainment Film Distributors (UK)
runtime=118 minutes
music =
awards =
budget=$20,000,000 (estimated)

"The Man Who Wasn't There" is a 2001 neo-noir film written and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen. Billy Bob Thornton stars in the title role. Also featured are James Gandolfini, Tony Shalhoub, Scarlett Johansson, and Coen regulars Frances McDormand, Michael Badalucco, and Jon Polito.


The film was inspired by a poster that the Coen brothers saw while filming "The Hudsucker Proxy"; the poster showed various haircuts from the 1940s. The story takes place in 1949 and, Joel Coen admits, is "heavily influenced by" the work of James M. Cain, a writer best known for the novels "Double Indemnity", "The Postman Always Rings Twice", and "Mildred Pierce".

There is also a resemblance in the basic plot, as well as certain details, to Albert Camus' existential novel "L'Étranger" (published in Britain as The Outsider, and in the United States as The Stranger).Fact|date=September 2007

The cinematography practised by Roger Deakins is straightforward and traditional. Most shots are made with the camera at eye level, with normal lensing and a long depth of field. The lighting is textbook, with the usual sort of quarter-light setup. The cinematography, combined with the consistent, accurate use of 1950s props and sets, could make even a careful viewer think the film was made 50 years ago. When Ed appears onscreen, he is almost always shown smoking an unfiltered Chesterfield, another detail true to the era in which the film is set. "The Man Who Wasn't There" was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Cinematography in 2001.

The film contains several mentions of UFOs throughout, in dreams and in conversation, as well as in various props, including an ashtray.

Though a black and white film, "The Man Who Wasn't There" was shot in colour and transferred to black and white. Some prints were accidentally released with the first couple of reels in colour as reported in Roger Ebert's Movie Answer Man column. [ [ :: :: ] ] [ [ :: :: ] ] Color DVDs of the film are available in Europe and Japan. [ [] ]


Set in and around Santa Rosa, California in 1949, Ed Crane is a suburban barber, married to Doris, a bookkeeper with a drinking problem. Doris' boss at "Nirdlinger's", a local department store, is "Big Dave" Brewster, a loud, boisterous man, who constantly brags about his combat adventures in the Pacific Theatre of operations where he apparently served as a crack infantry trooper. Ed, who was rejected from the army due to flat feet and shows little emotion, is jealous of Big Dave, especially noting how much his wife seems to appreciate his presence, vivacity and anedoctes. The barber shop where Ed works is owned by his brother-in-law Frank, a good-natured man of Italian ancestry who talks incessantly. Ed meets Creighton Tolliver, a businessman looking for investors in a new technology called dry cleaning. After rebuffing a pass, Ed decides he wants to invest and anonymously blackmails his wife's boss, "Big Dave" Brewster for the $10,000 he needs. Big Dave, not suspecting anything, tells him he's being blackmailed, asking for guidance, and Ed naturally suggests him to pay. Dave delivers the money without seeing Ed make the pick-up.

Ed brings the money to Tolliver, who subsequently disappears, leaving Ed to believe that he has been scammed. Big Dave calls Ed, asking him to meet at "Nirdlinger's". Tolliver had also approached Big Dave, asking him for $10,000. Thinking it too much of a coincidence that he was asked for the same sum of money he was blackmailed for, Brewster tracked the man down and beat a confession out of him. Enraged by Ed's betrayal, Brewster attacks Ed and begins to strangle him. Ed stabs him in the neck with a cigar cutter and Brewster dies. Ed goes home, where his wife is still unconscious from her alcoholic binge at the wedding they had attended that day. Once evidence of Doris' affair with Big Dave is uncovered, and since she can't account for her activities (she was passed out drunk) at the time of the murder, she becomes the prime suspect. With the local lawyers deemed insufficient for such an important case, Ed is persuaded to hire Freddy Riedenschneider, an expensive Jewish defense attorney from Sacramento who arrives and takes up residence in the best and most expensive hotel in town.

Ed insists that he killed Brewster, but Riedenschneider thinks Ed is simply covering for his wife and that the story would never stand up in court since their only alibi is each other. He works out an elaborate plan for Doris's defense, involving the uncertainty principle and various other tangents, all bizarre if not ingenious. However his strategy is successful, he manages to discover that Big Dave never saw combat during World War Two and spent his whole service time in a San Diego shipyard; while totally unrelated to his death the discovery casts a shadow of shame on his whole persona and could conjure the legitimate suspect that a third party partial to this piece of info approached Dave asking for ten thousand dollars, ended up assaulted by the short-tempered blackmailee and ended up killing him. On the culminating day of the trial Doris is late, and so is the judge. When the judge arrives, he calls the counsel to the bench and dismisses the case. Doris has committed suicide. Riedenschneider leaves with all of Ed's life savings.

Autopsy later reveals that Doris was pregnant. Since she had no intercourse in years with Ed it appears all too evident to him that she was having an affair with Brewster and that the child was his own. Evidently, having discovered that the man she came to love and to cheat her husband with was nothing but a liar and a fraud Doris lost the will to live.

Ed visits Birdy Abundas, a friend's teenage daughter. The girl is a pianist; Ed wants to pay for her to have lessons. Driving her back from an unsuccessful attempt to impress a piano teacher, the girl makes a pass at Ed and is rather insistent about it, unzipping his pants. Ed tries to stop her; the car swerves across the road to avoid hitting an oncoming car. When Ed awakens in a hospital bed, he is being told he's under arrest, and guesses that Birdy must have died in the crash; the police and doctor tell him the girl has a broken clavicle but is otherwise well. A young boy swimming in a lake discovered a car with a man inside: the "pansy." Brewster didn't simply beat a confession out of him; he killed him. In his briefcase is the contract Ed signed; the police now believe that Ed coerced his wife into embezzling the money from Nirdlinger's to use in the investment, and that Ed is the person who killed the "pansy."

Ed is arraigned for the murder and mortgages his house to re-hire Riedenschneider. His opening statement to the jury is interrupted when Ed's brother-in-law Frank attacks Ed; a mistrial is declared. With no money and nothing left to mortgage, Ed is given the inadequate local lawyer (whom Riedenschneider had showed such scorn for, whom he had said was good at "holding his hand on [his clients'] shoulders as they were thrown on the mercy of the court"). This lawyer does in fact hold his hand on Ed's shoulder, and Ed is thrown on the mercy of the court, painted as a remorseless, dangerous sociopath. He's sentenced to death. Ed writes his story out from his cell on death row, to sell to a pulp magazine that pays him by the word. While waiting on death row, he dreams of walking out to the prison courtyard and seeing a flying saucer, to which he reacts with a simple nod. At the end of the film he is walked to the electric chair and strapped in, (another departure from history, since California used the gas chamber, not the electric chair) where he sits thinking about meeting his wife and possibly having the words to explain his thoughts to her, but mainly thinking about how he is unhappy about some of the consequences of his actions, but not unhappy that he took action and spiced up his life.


*Billy Bob Thornton as Ed Crane
*Frances McDormand as Doris Crane
*Michael Badalucco as Frank
*James Gandolfini as Big Dave Brewster
*Katherine Borowitz as Ann Nirdlinger Brewster
*Jon Polito as Creighton Tolliver
*Scarlett Johansson as Birdy Abundas

*Richard Jenkins as Walter Abundas
*Tony Shalhoub as Freddy Riedenschneider
*Christopher Kriesa as Officer Persky
*Brian Haley as Officer Krebs
*Jack McGee as P.I. Burns
*Adam Alexi-Malle as Jacques Carcanogues
*Christopher McDonald as Macadam Salesman


Infobox Album
Name = The Man Who Wasn't There
Type = Soundtrack
Artist = Carter Burwell and various artists

Released = October 30, 2001
Recorded = 2001
Genre = Film score
Length = 45:43
Label = Decca
Producer =
Reviews = * Allmusic (no rating) [ link]
* [ Music from the Movies] rating|3.5|5
Chronology = Coen Brothers film soundtracks
Last album = "O Brother, Where Art Thou?"
This album = "The Man Who Wasn't There" (2001)
Next album = "Intolerable Cruelty" (2003)

The score to "The Man Who Wasn't There" consists of classical music, mainly piano sonatas by Ludwig van Beethoven, interspersed with cues composed by Carter Burwell. The film is the ninth on which Burwell has collaborated with the Coen Brothers.

Compositions by Carter Burwell except where otherwise noted.
#"Birdy's 'Pathétique'" (Piano Sonata No. 8 in C minor Op. 13 by Ludwig van Beethoven) – 1:17
#*Performed by Jonathan Feldman
#"Che soave zeffiretto" (from "The Marriage of Figaro" by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart) – 3:33
#*Performed by Edith Mathis and Gundula Janowitz with the Orchestra of the Deutsche Oper Berlin, conducted by Karl Bohm, 1968
#"Bringing Doris Home" (Piano Sonata No. 25 in G Op. 79 by Ludwig van Beethoven) – 1:18
#*Performed by Jonathan Feldman
#"I Met Doris Blind" – 1:15
#"Ed Visits Dave" – 1:03
#"Ed Returns Home" (Piano Sonata Opus 79 by Ludwig van Beethoven) – 1:57
#"I Love You Birdy Abundas" – 0:42
#"Nirdlinger's Swing" – 5:12
#"Moonlight Sonata" (Piano Sonata No. 14 in C sharp minor Op. 27 by Ludwig van Beethoven) – 2:29
#*Performed by Jonathan Feldman
#"The Fight" – 3:01
#"The Bank" – 1:03
#"Adagio Cantabile" (Piano Sonata No. 8 in C minor Op. 13 by Ludwig van Beethoven) – 5:33
#*Performed by Jonathan Feldman
#"The Trial of Ed Crane" – 3:52
#"Andante Cantabile" (Piano Trio No. 7 in B flat Op. 97 ("Archduke") by Ludwig van Beethoven ) – 13:28
#*Performed by the Beaux Arts Trio, 1980


External links

* [ Coenesque: The Films of the Coen Brothers]
* [ You Know, For Kids! The Man Who Wasn't There page]
*imdb title|id=0243133|title=The Man Who Wasn't There
*rotten-tomatoes|id=man_who_wasnt_there|title=The Man Who Wasn't There
*mojo title|id=manwhowasntthere|title=The Man Who Wasn't There
* ['t-there.html"The Man Who Wasn't There" Draft Script]
* [ "The Man Who Wasn't There" Film Review]
* [ Gods of Filmmaking review of "The Man Who Wasn't There"]

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