"The Man Who Cried" brings together once again "Sleepy Hollow" co-stars Johnny Depp and Christina Ricci in a film helmed by "Tango Lesson" and "Orlando" director Sally Potter. As with the rest of Potter's films, the picture relies heavily on visuals and, for the most part, Potter has created another film that boasts dazzling and remarkable imagery, but there are other elements of the picture that come up as rather lacking.
As previously mentioned, the film stars Ricci as Suzie, a young girl who was orphaned at a young age when her father left her for America to find work. Eventually taken in by a British family, she grows up and heads off on her own, finding work as a dancer and watched over by Lola (Cate Blanchett, with a hilarious Russian accent - I half expected her to suddenly ask, "Where are Moose and Squirrel?").
The middle piece of the picture is a soap opera of a romance with World War II in the background, as Lola falls for Dante Dominio (John Turturro), while Suzie catches the eyes of gypsy (Johnny Depp, looking like he took a few days off from playing the same role in "Chocolat"). Ricci and Depp are as restrained as Blanchett and Turturro are over the top, creating an odd situation where the supporting characters are a bit more interesting than the leads, although none of the characters are really that sympathetic, engaging or well-defined.
But, if anything, at least the film looks stunning. Remarkable sets and locations are captured with elegant beauty by cinematographer Sacha Vierny ("Belle Du Jour"), making for at least a film whose visuals basically held my interest, even when the story doesn't. The film's score also provides an attractive and emotional backing to the scenes.
I thought "Man Who Cried" was about a girl who was searching for her father and herself. Yet, the film's middle spends too much time developing a romance that not only remains underdeveloped and uninteresting, but doesn't really go anywhere. Ricci is supposedly the main character, but rarely speaks and spends plenty of wordless moments with Depp. The middle section of the picture seems to be spinning its wheels, going nowhere in particular, but looking visually impressive while doing so.
The film seems to desperately want to reach for a wider scope, but in 97 minutes, it doesn't develop story or characters very well, nor does it seem to know where it should head - the romantic elements are not interesting and unneeded, when the film could have been focusing on something more substancial involving Ricci's character. The wrap-up is quick and not particularly effective.
Director Potter's "Orlando" was superb, but this is just a rather underdeveloped and unfocused dissapointment.
VIDEO: Universal presents "Man Who Cried" in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and, for the most part, this is an excellent treatment of simply marvelous cinematography, provided by Sacha Vierny ("Belle Du Jour"). Sharpness and detail are quite good; the film appears well-defined and crisp, allowing the viewer to examine the film's terrific sets and beautiful locations with ease.
Flaws are minimal and not entirely bothersome. A few small specks appear once or twice, but these moments are brief and not terribly noticable. The film also shows some slight grain at times, but these instances are also minimal. No pixelation or edge enhancement was seen.
The film offers a rather subdued color palette, but there are occasional moments where bolder colors appear. Colors came across quite well, appearing accurate and natural, with no smearing or other problems. Black level was solid, as well. A very nice transfer.
SOUND: "Man Who Cried" is presented in Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 by Universal. The film's sound experience is enjoyable, yet restrained in dimension, as the score sounds crisp and full coming from the front speakers, but rarely reached around to the surrounds. Surround use, in fact, was rather rare, with only a few notable exceptions. Still, audio quality was quite good, as the score and music was delivered with crystal clarity and dialogue sounded natural. Given the material, the soundtrack was satisfactory.
MENUS:: Basic, non-animated menus that essentially use film-themed images and cover art.
EXTRAS:: Extras are basic: trailer, production notes, cast/crew bios, DVD-ROM features and trailers for "Beautiful Creatures", "Buffalo '66", "Pavillion of Women" and "Rat" in the "Recommendations" section.
Final Thoughts: "Man Who Cried" isn't entirely unwatchable, but the story and characters don't seem entirely well-handled or developed, while the actors have all offered better efforts elsewhere. Universal's DVD offers very good audio/video, but nothing much in the way of extras. Those who are interested might want to take a look as a rental, but otherwise, I'd skip it.
The Film **
Video 90/A- = (360/400 possible points)
Audio: 88/B = (352/400 possible points)
Extras: 70/C- = (210/300 possible points)
Menus: 70/C- = (140/200 possible points)
Value: 80/B- = (240/300 possible points)
FILM GRADE: **
DVD GRADE: B