The Man Who Cried

The Man Who Cried


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

To be displaced in this age of ethnic cleansing is better than being dead. Scenes of devastation are recorded by TV cameramen daily until the mind goes numb.

Sally Potter's story of a little Jewish girl's journey from revolutionary Russia to the desperate gaiety of Paris in 1939 has been told before. Refugees have no past, the flamboyant Lola (Cate Blanchett) tells Suzie (Christina Ricci), the quiet girl with an English name. "All is future," she gushes. "We look forward, never backward."

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On the eve of Hitler's war there is no safety for Jews and gypsies, except across the Atlantic. Suzie's whole life, it seems, has been a prelude to her reunion with her father (Oleg Yankovsky). He travelled to America in the early years and was never heard of again, while she landed alone in England, with nothing but a faded photograph of him, to be fostered by a childless lower-middle-class couple.

Hindsight is a difficult thing to carry on the shoulders of a script when writing about the war, because everyone knows what happened. Potter manages to imbue Suzie's story with a feeling of anticipation, as if her life is fresh and innocent. She comes to Paris as a chorus girl at a Follies club, eager to escape the emotional restraint of English life and to possibly find a berth on a ship going west.

Lola takes Suzie under her wing, without realising that they share a common heritage. She is the star of the show and a strong believer in using her looks to better herself. "There are rules how you get your man," she says. "You must smile and you must listen."

Suzie is good at listening, not so good at smiling. She takes everything in without comment, absorbs the anguish and fear around her, rejecting advances, as Lola becomes entangled with a fascist Italian tenor (John Turturro).

She joins the company of players at the opera house and becomes friendly with Cesar (Johnny Depp), a beautiful gypsy who rides a white horse on stage. As the Germans move ever deeper into France, she witnesses the treatment of Jews and Romanies. It is a moment of truth.

The atmosphere of uncertainty is thick as fog. Suzie's love for Cesar clouds her judgement. Lola's instinct for survival overcomes any flutterings of the heart.

With little resources and an imaginative eye, Potter gives voice to Suzie's silent desires. The acting is a revelation, with Blanchett supreme and Turturro inspired. Depp looks like the dark prince of fairy tales, long-haired and brooding. Ricci has been cast against type. No longer the brazen vixen, or feisty wit of previous roles, she is a still, small voice, reflecting the determination of a lost child.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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The Man Who Cried packshot
A Jewish girl hunting her father falls in love with a gypsy against the back drop of the Second World War.
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Director: Sally Potter

Writer: Sally Potter

Starring: Christina Ricci, Cate Blanchett, John Turturro, Johnny Depp, Harry Dean Stanton

Year: 2000

Runtime: 99 minutes

BBFC: 12 - Age Restricted

Country: UK


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