The man who wasn't there (2001)

"Billy Bob Thornton plays Ed in a film painstakingly stylized as a film noir of crisp black-and-white photography, enveloped in shadows and an air of impassionate hopelessness."

Set in a sleepy Northern California town in the 1940s, Joel Coen and Ethan Coen's The Man Who Wasn't There stars Billy Bob Thornton as Ed Crane, a humble barber who suspects his hard-hearted and hard-drinking wife Doris (Frances McDormand) of having an affair with her boss (James Gandolfini). When a jocular stranger (Jon Polito) breezes into town hinting at the fortune to be made investing in an outlandish-sounding new invention called dry cleaning, Ed hatches a blackmail scheme he hopes will make him rich and get him some revenge at the same time.

His plan goes horribly awry when he accidentally commits a murder for which Doris ends up being blamed, landing her in the slammer and Ed at the mercy of blowhard big-city lawyer Freddy Riedenschneider (Tony Shalhoub). Filmed in black-and-white by three-time Oscar-nominated cinematographer Roger Deakins, The Man Who Wasn't There was inspired by the seedy crime novels of James M. Cain, putting a distinctly Coen brothers' spin on the film noir tradition.
Perfectly written scenario plus Thornton's ultra low key performance make this film one of my favorite Cohen brother's films 

From the opening line:

ED (V.O.)
Yeah, I worked in a barbershop. But 
I never considered myself a barber...

till the end

ED (V.O.)

...I don't know what waits for me, 
Beyond the earth and sky. But I'm 
not afraid to go.
...Maybe the things I don't understand 
will be clearer there, like when a 
fog blows away...

in this" twisted" example of  film noir Cohen brothers one more time showcase why they are one of the best if not the best of what modern American cinema has to offer.
Film noir is rarely about heroes, but about men of small stature, who are lured out of their timid routines by dreams of wealth or romance. Their sin is one of hubris: These little worms dare to dream of themselves as rich or happy. As the title hints, ''The Man Who Wasn't There'' pushes this one step further, into the realm of a man who scarcely exists apart from his transgressions. I kill, therefore I am. And he doesn't even kill who, or how, or when the world thinks he does (although there is a certain justice when he receives his last shave).

Joel and Ethan Coen are above all stylists. The look and feel of their films is more important to them than the plots--which, in a way, is as it should be. Here Michel Ciment is right, and they have devised an efficient, 90-minute story and stretched it out with style. Style didn't used to take extra time in Hollywood; it came with the territory.
But ''The Man Who Wasn't There'' is so assured and perceptive in its style, so loving, so intensely right, that if you can receive on that frequency, the film is like a voluptuous feast. Yes, it might easily have been shorter. But then it would not have been this film, or necessarily a better one. If the Coens have taken two hours to do what hardly anyone else could do at all, isn't it churlish to ask why they didn't take less time to do what everyone can do?

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