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[whitespace] 'The Man Who Cried'
Depp Charge: Johnny Depp smolders in 'The Man Who Cried.'

Cate's Game

An orphan and a gold digger romance a Gypsy and an opera singer

By Richard von Busack

RELEASED BY Working Title productions, The Man Who Cried has the workingest working title of all time. It's certainly meant to make an audience guess what it's all about ("Well, it's about a man who cried"). Directed by Sally Potter (Orlando), the film is a morality fable in the form of an epic spread untidily over 20 years. One lesson to be drawn immediately from The Man Who Cried is that a movie full of alt-film royalty (Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci, Cate Blanchett and John Turturro) that arrives here unheralded should be a warning to the wise.

The Man Who Cried follows the odyssey of a little girl named Fegele, later dubbed Suzie. Her father, caught in some unspecified Russian conflict in 1927, runs to America, leaving his daughter behind. Her only possession is a gold coin and a photo of her dad. She's taken to England, where she's raised by adopted parents. Somehow Suzie becomes a showgirl in Paris (Ricci takes over the role at this point). Her roommate and friend on the chorus line, the Russian gold digger Lola (Blanchett), gets them both jobs as spear carriers in a local opera company. There, Lola meets the flamboyant Italian opera star Dante Dominio (Turturro). Suzie is more interested in a fellow extra, Cesar the Gypsy (Depp), who rides a white stallion onstage. Meanwhile, storm clouds are gathering over Europe, the Nazis prepare to invade and Dante's hidden fascist tendencies come out of hiding.

Ricci's been a fascinating creature in the past, her moon face radiant and eerie like a glow-in-the-dark toy. And she has a few close-ups (the photography is by Sacha Vierny, Peter Greenaway's usual photographer and the cinematographer on Belle de Jour and Last Year at Marienbad) in which her greenish luminescence ought to have been haunting. But Ricci is playing a morose Englishwoman, described as "a watcher." Mostly what she watches, disapprovingly, is the love life of Lola, who eventually has to vamp some German occupiers in order to survive. When Suzie's own romance begins with the Gypsy, the film slows nearly to a halt. Depp once played a man who idolized Bela Lugosi. After playing two Gypsies in a row, Depp's becoming Bela Lugosi. As in Chocolat, Depp's flared nostrils and sucked-in cheeks are mannerisms he'd well be rid of. I revere the guy for avoiding mainstream material, but he's becoming ridiculous, even in a midnight horse race in Paris' Place de la Concorde.

Potter's stilted direction contrasts a solitary, expatriated girl of good character with the demiwhore Lola. The good girl is rewarded; the bad girl is punished--and The Man Who Cried is never more than a lecture on keeping thine own self true. The problem with this tidy lesson is that Lola is the most amusing character, and she's continually pushed aside. Blanchett's stage Russian accent is charmingly hokey; her desire to amuse and the mobility of her wry features are far more interesting than either Ricci's glum pining for her long-lost father or Depp's ultrasultry Gypsy stare.

The Man Who Cried (R; 102 min.), directed and written by Sally Potter, photographed by Sacha Vierny and starring Christina Ricci, Cate Blanchett and Johnny Depp, opens Friday at the Camera 3 in San Jose.

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From the May 24-30, 2001 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2001 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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