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The Man Who Cried The Man Who Cried

With Sally Potter at the helm, her new film The Man Who Cried, nearly spans the same time period as Michael Bay's spectacular of the devastating sneak attack by Japan that ignited patriotism that gave a sleeping giant more morale and confidence.

In their second film together, Christina Ricci and Johnny Depp actually made this one before Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow, but more sparks flew between them with the ominous Headless Horseman around them than the specter of the Nazis around the start of WW II.

Besides Ricci and Depp, Potter has the talents of Cate Blanchett (The Gift) and John Turturro (O' Brother Where Art Thou) in this behind the scenes almost epic film that lacks the strong narrative and emotional power of last year's Sunshine.

Like Pearl Harbor, The Man Who Cried doesn't strive earnestly for historical veracity as Potter finds resourcefulness in her ability to convey passion from music and visuals as she works elegantly with her production designer.  Yet in doing so, she inadvertently displaces her disparate characters who brood with feelings resolve, ego, trust, and selflessness as the ranging, detailed scoring is transposed with a handsome solitude.

The focus this Indie European sweeping tale which underlines intolerance as it moves along laboriously between joyous operatic tunes and gypsy dirges.  It is the journey that a wide-eyed girl named Fegele (Claudia Lander-Duke) must take.

With her Jewish father leaving for America vowing to have her brought to him later, military forces cause Fegele to escape Russia with other refugees and she arrives in England with a picture of her father and coins knitted in her grungy clothing.  Potter initially begins her variation of the shattering documentary about the Kindertransport, Into the Arms of Strangers, but it is uncertain whether persecution of Jews took place in Russia.

Arriving in England by boat she is renamed Suzie by an immigrant worker who sees the love of her father in her dark eyes as she takes out a coin and optimistically blurts, "America."

Now staying with unintelligent, uptight British foster parents, she impresses a Welsh instructor with her musical ability and she is admonished to sing in English, not her native Yiddish.  Move ten years forward and Suzie, now played by Ricci, heads to Paris with that talented voice as a chorus girl in a bawdy musical company.

Potter now forges the important relationships in the nebulously titled film that always looks sensational but loses some of its heart tugging value at this expense of calculated interplay and hackneyed dialogue with forced accents from the principals.

While dreaming of finding her father in America, Suzie hears the advice of Blanchett's ostentatious Russian dancer, Lola, "Buy yourself a nice dress and you will find a rich man who'll take you there," and is amused.  The blond dancer, done with sardonic manly pursuit by Blanchett, offers a place in her garret with Suzie once they get jobs in an opera company and she starts up a heated affair with a vain, fascist vocalist, the Italian star Dante, a preening Tutor.

Suzie, who is far from having the personality of Sally Bowles, becomes enamored with Depp's subdued passionate Cesar, the opera's equestrian, as the actor exudes the qualities recently seen in Chocolat with little dialogue like Ricci.  And he looks the part of his Don Juan de Marco charmer with a long mustache.

Potter understands Ricci's assets as tenderness and bawdiness are contrasted strikingly as the portentous, plodding plot appears to be riding the coattails of the Nazis who have a dastardly job to do when crashing a party that has Suzie joined by Lola and her imperious lover, Dante.

The director of Orlando and The Tango Lesson doesn't realize how to imitate some of the more vividly realized epics that wondrously unites the danger of war and romance with a tendency to be remote from her story as Suzie is in her now "Cabaret" milieu.

But if this isn't the way to make gripping, more tightly executed Holocaust drams, Blanchett and especially Ricci from the close-ups of Sacha Viemy (Belle de Jour) express more in song and even silence.  As in Pearl Harbor, an invasion which opened the Second World War finally brings shame to an evocative The Man Who Cried which doesn't have the emotional payoff from those mournful and happy crooners who aren't much different from Suzie's widower.

The Man Who Cried

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