Other Titles Considered for The Man Who Was Not \There (according to Roderick Jaynes in his “Introduction” to the screenplay) I, The Barber The Man Who Smoked Too Much The Nirdlinger Doings Missing, Presumed Ed Mr. Mum I Love You, Birdie Abundas The Barber, Crane Edward Crane The Other Side of Fate None Know My Name I Will Cut Hair No More Forever The Man Who Wasn’t All There The Man with the Gas Hearth or My Hearth is Gas
The Man Who Wasn’t There The Coen Brothers They got this guy, in Germany. Fritz something-or-other. Or is it? Maybe it's Werner. Anyway, he's got this theory, you wanna test something, you know, scientifically—how the planets go round the sun, what sunspots are made of, why the water comes out of the tap—well, you gotta look at it. But sometimes, you look at it, your looking “changes” it. Ya can't know the reality of what happened, or what “would've” happened if you hadden a stuck in your goddamn schnozz. So there “is” no “what happened.” Not in any sense that we can grasp with our puny minds. Because our minds... our minds get in the way. Looking at something changes it. They call it the “Uncertainty Principle.” Sure, it sounds screwy, but even Einstein says the guy's on to something. Werner Heisenberg
The Man Who Wasn’t There The Coen Brothers Schrodinger Said: "One can even set up quite ridiculous cases. A cat is penned up in a steel chamber, along with the following diabolical device (which must be secured against direct interference by the cat): in a Geiger counter there is a tiny bit of radioactive substance, so small that perhaps in the course of one hour one of the atoms decays, but also, with equal probability, perhaps none; if it happens, the counter tube discharges and through a relay releases a hammer which shatters a small flask of hydrocyanic acid. If one has left this entire system to itself for an hour, one would say that the cat still lives if meanwhile no atom has decayed. The first atomic decay would have poisoned it. The Psi function for the entire system would express this by having in it the living and the dead cat (pardon the expression) mixed or smeared out in equal parts."
The Man Who Wasn’t There The Coen Brothers Schrödinger's Cat A famous Gedankenexperiment, the paradox of Schrödinger's cat, was intended to demonstrate that Heisenberg's indeterminancy principle made no kind of sense and offered his Is-He-Alive-or-Is-He-Dead? feline as reductio ad absurdum evidence. That Greg Bear would write "Schrödinger's Plague"--a diabolical SF short story in which a pissed-off mad scientist concocts an experiment using the paradox which may, or may not, wipe out the human race--would probably not have surprised the German physicist. But I doubt he dreamed that his cat would show up on the big AND small screen.
The Man Who Wasn’t There The Coen Brothers Schrödinger's Cat In "Perfect Cercles," the first episode of Season Three of Six Feet Under, in which Nate Fisher, either alive or dead after brain surgery, must open his own closed coffin in order to determine his state--this after he looks on, in one of his possible realities, as a redneck version of himself watches a soap opera with a character named Schrödinger! (The episode was directed by the son of Magic Realism's patriarch: Rodrigo Garcia.) The final episode Season One of The Big Bang Theory has a running Schrödinger's Paradox joke at the core of its first date humor.
The Man Who Wasn’t There The Coen Brothers Schrödinger's Cat In a Season Episode of FlashForward, Simon (Dominic Monaghan), world renown physicist and prime-mover in the series' world-wide catastrophe, explains the thought experiment in an attempt to seduce a woman on the train. Schrödinger's cat is also mentioned in a Season Two episode of Castle.
The Man Who Wasn’t There The Coen Brothers Schrödinger's Cat And in A Serious Man the uncertainty principle and Schrödinger both play a role: The Uncertainty Principle. It proves we can't ever really know... what's going on. So it shouldn't bother you, not being able to figure anything out--although you will be responsible for this on the mid-term. — Physics professor Larry Gopnik to his students in A Serious Man
The Man Who Wasn’t There The Coen Brothers Ed Crane, Narrator
The Man Who Wasn’t There The Coen Brothers He told them to look at me—look at me close. That the closer they looked the less sense it would all make, that I wasn't the kind of guy to kill a guy, that I was the barber, for Christ's sake. I was just like them, an ordinary man, guilty of living in a world that had no place for me, guilty of wanting to be a dry cleaner, sure, but not of murder. He said I *was* Modern Man, and if they voted to convict me, well, they'd be practically cinching the noose around their own necks. He told them to look not at the facts but at the meaning of the facts, and then he said the facts *had* no meaning. It was a pretty good speech, and even had me going. Ed Crane
Ed Crane’s final speech in The Man Who Wasn’t There The Coen Brothers So here I am. At first I didn't know how I got here. I knew step by step of course, which is what I've told you, step by step; but I couldn't see any pattern... Now that I'm near the end, I'm glad that this men's magazine paid me to tell my story. Writing it has helped me sort it all out. They're paying five cents a word, so you'll pardon me if sometimes I've told you more than you wanted to know. But now, all the disconnected things seems to hook up. That's the funny thing about going away, knowing the date you're gonna die--and the men's magazine wanted me to tell how that felt. Well, it's like pulling away from the maze. While you're in the maze you go through willy-nilly, turning where you think you have to turn, banging into dead ends, one thing after another.
Ed Crane’s final speech in The Man Who Wasn’t There The Coen Brothers But get some distance on it, and all those twists and turns, why, they're the shape of your life. It's hard to explain. But seeing it whole gives you some peace. The men's magazine also asked about remorse. Yeah, I guess I'm sorry about the pain I caused other people, but I don't regret anything. Not a thing. I used to. I used to regret being the barber. I don’t know where I'm being taken. 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. Maybe Doris will be there. And maybe there I can tell her all those things they don't have words for here.
The Coen Brothers The look, feel and ingenuity of this film are so lovingly modulated you wonder if anyone else could have done it better than the Coens. Probably not. And yet, and yet--for a movie about crime, it proceeds at such a leisurely pace. The first time I saw it, at Cannes, I emerged into the sunlight to find Michel Ciment, the influential French critic, who observed sadly, ''A 90- minute film that plays for two hours.'' Now I have seen it again, and I admire its virtues so much I am about ready to forgive its flow.... --Roger Ebert The Critics on The Man Who Wasn’t There
The Coen Brothers 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? --Roger Ebert The Critics on The Man Who Wasn’t There
The Coen Brothers As my friend who loves the Coen Brothers' movies said the other night, after we had sat through their latest cool, near- perfect puzzler, "I guess their problem is that basically they don't have anything to say." This is more of a problem for me than for my friend, generally speaking, and I found “The Man Who Wasn't There" -- a loving evocation of the lower- middle-class 1940s noir world of James M. Cain -- a frustrating experience even by Coen standards. I prefer the Coens in their charming goofball mode, when they structure their all-style-no-substance tributes to movie history around a comic-heroic central figure: Nicolas Cage in "Raising Arizona," Jeff Bridges in "The Big Lebowski," George Clooney in "O Brother, Where Art Thou?” Andrew O’Hehir in Salon The Critics on The Man Who Wasn’t There
The Coen Brothers Seen in retrospect, even my favorite of the Coens' films, the pseudo-profound "Barton Fink," looks more like absurdist comedy than meaningful satire. Mind you, I have no problem with that; the Coens can't resist these deluded and pathetic lunkheads who must confront a ludicrous universe, and their comedies usually provide at least a convincing simulation of warmth and humanity. Andrew O’Hehir in Salon The Critics on The Man Who Wasn’t There
The Coen Brothers I'm much more mixed on the Coens' neo-noirs and imitation genre pictures. I haven't disliked any of their later movies as much as I did "Blood Simple," their very black, much-lauded 1984 debut. But some of the same soulless sadism, the same juvenile-geek urge to out-Hitchcock Hitchcock, resurfaced in "Miller's Crossing" and even later in "Fargo" (redeemed as that was by the performance of Frances McDormand). Of course I understand that for many of the Coens' fans their bravura appropriation of style and sensibility, their amoral mix 'n' match movie-hound aesthetic, is precisely the source of their appeal. Perhaps the reported title of their next project, "Intolerable Cruelty," is meant to tweak weepy old- fashioned humanists like me. Andrew O’Hehir in Salon The Critics on The Man Who Wasn’t There
The Coen Brothers “The Man Who Wasn't There," like "Fargo," is to some extent an effort to bridge the gap between the Coens' comedy and thriller modes. On the surface it's purest formalism: masterful black-and- white cinematography (by Roger Deakins, the Coens' customary co-conspirator), note-perfect character acting and period diction. I mean, these guys pay attention to the friggin' details: When Doris Crane (played by McDormand, who in real life is married to director Joel Coen), the main character's alcoholic and perhaps unfaithful wife, gets drunk at an Italian family picnic, she says the word "goddamn" with the precise inflection of a mid-century woman unaccustomed to cursing. Another character says "the out-of-doors" rather than the more contemporary "outdoors.” Andrew O’Hehir in Salon The Critics on The Man Who Wasn’t There
The Coen Brothers Specifically, ”The Man Who Wasn't There" is meant to seem like a companion piece to Billy Wilder's 1944 "Double Indemnity" or Tay Garnett's 1946 "The Postman Always Rings Twice" (both based on Cain novels). We've got a tangled web of family money, unhappy marriages, stifled dreams, greed, adultery and murder. In Ed Crane (Billy Bob Thornton), the small-town California barber whose misguided attempt to escape his lot in life ignites the drama, we've got a narrator-protagonist so inscrutable that the more he talks the less we really know about him. This is the point of the film in some ways: No one can ever remember Ed's name or place him in context; when he does something bad he gets away with it, and the things he gets blamed for he didn't do. But this sure doesn't make it any easier to like or understand Ed. Like so many other Coen characters -- and, it must be said, so many characters in classic film noir -- he seems like a laboratory animal trapped in a cage of elaborate and beautiful construction. Andrew O’Hehir in Salon The Critics on The Man Who Wasn’t There
The Coen Brothers Late in Ed's running voiceover, when everything has gone irreparably wrong for him, he reflects that he is indeed guilty: "Guilty of living in a world that had no place for me. Guilty of wanting to be a dry cleaner." This awkward, melancholic mix of the poetic and the pathetic seems to be exactly what the Coens are after in “The Man Who Wasn't There," and all I can really say about that is that they achieve it wonderfully and I can't for the life of me see what the point is. Andrew O’Hehir in Salon The Critics on The Man Who Wasn’t There
The Coen Brothers Late in Ed's running voiceover, when everything has gone irreparably wrong for him, he reflects that he is indeed guilty: "Guilty of living in a world that had no place for me. Guilty of wanting to be a dry cleaner." This awkward, melancholic mix of the poetic and the pathetic seems to be exactly what the Coens are after in "The Man Who Wasn't There," and all I can really say about that is that they achieve it wonderfully and I can't for the life of me see what the point is. Andrew O’Hehir in Salon The Critics on The Man Who Wasn’t There
The Coen Brothers As Riedenschneider says when invoking Heisenberg's uncertainty principle to bewilder a jury, "They got this guy in Germany named Fritz. Or maybe it's Werner." What makes me respect "The Man Who Wasn't There" despite myself is the sense that the Coens want it to be about something that can't be described or defined, even by Fritz or Werner. By the end of Ed's story he wants to rebuild his destroyed marriage and tell Doris things he never could before, and it almost seems like the same can be said of the movie: It wants to break out of its aesthetic prison and tell those of us out there in the audience something precious and impossible. In both cases it's a nice try but a bit too late.... Andrew O’Hehir in Salon The Critics on The Man Who Wasn’t There
Coen Motifs: Howling Fat Men: Frank Raffo, Creighton Tolliver Blustery Titans: Big Dave Brewster Vomiting: ? Violence: Big Dave’s throat slit with s cigar cutter Dreams: ? Peculiar Haircuts: Ed Crane’s—and the film is about a barber Lost Hats: Lots of hats worn The Coen Brothers