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'The Man Who Cried'

Unhappy family Exiles seek community in a Paris opera company on the eve of World War II

Friday, June 29, 2001

By Ron Weiskind Post-Gazette Movie Editor

The major characters in "The Man Who Cried," now at the Denis and Destinta Bridgeville, all qualify as displaced persons, culturally as well as geographically. By the time it's over, the movie feels a little jumbled itself.


 
 
'THE MAN WHO CRIED'

Rating: R for sexuality.

Players: Christina Ricci, Johnny Depp, Cate Blanchett, John Turturro.

Director: Sally Potter.

Critic's call:

   

 

Suzie (Christina Ricci) is a Russian Jew (real name: Fegele) who escaped one step ahead of a pogrom and was reared in England by people who tried to assimilate her by force. She works in the chorus of a Paris opera company on the eve of World War II while saving money to find her father in America, where he had hoped to make enough money to send for his family.

Her roommate, Lola (Cate Blanchett), a Russian gentile, plans to marry well and sets her sights on Dante (John Turturro), the arrogant Italian soloist who is the company's star. Suzie finds herself enamored with Cesar (Johnny Depp), a smoldering Gypsy horseman who appears in some of the operas.

Each of them, separated from their homelands and loved ones, is trying to create a new family. They all have the opera company, but a caste system exists there. Lola latches on first to Suzie and then tries to land Dante. Suzie finds companionship spending time with her elderly Jewish landlady (Miriam Karlin), where she can be herself at last.

Cesar has his family of Gypsies, who by definition have no homeland. But they, in addition to Suzie, are at risk from the approaching Nazis. Dante has his art, his beautiful home, his belongings (including Lola?) and his ego. But the man who owns the opera company (Harry Dean Stanton) is Jewish. Dante will have to find new patrons.

Any intrigue at how this will all play out is counterbalanced by some rather obvious questions, such as: Why don't Suzie and the Gypsies leave while they have the chance? She, of all people, should know better, given her sudden exit from the shtetl.

The ending is also problematic, leaving the fate of some characters unresolved -- as if they suddenly don't matter anymore.

Filmmaker Sally Potter fares better as director than writer. The film displays sumptuous production values, especially Sacha Vierny's cinematography. His camera loves Ricci, who looks lovely in one of her most restrained roles. She barely speaks through much of the film. But that's just it -- she seems a bit miscast, never able to completely shed her modernity.

Turturro blusters appropriately as Dante, and Blanchett, that amazing chameleon, creates yet another vivid character in Lola, whose incessant chattiness and constant worry about her looks contrasts with Suzie's naturalness and quietude. Depp speaks even fewer words, his character consisting almost entirely of the soulful look in his eyes.

Ultimately, the movie itself cuts not much deeper.

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