Unscripted expands a scene

The Men Who Wasn't there
by the Cohen Brothers

Early on in “The Man Who Wasn’t There” script there is a scene with Doris and Ed “entertaining” Dave and his wife Ann (the picture above).  After the set up it continues in the following way: 

Japs had us pinned down in Buna for something like six weeks. Well, I gotta tell ya, I thought *we* had it tough, but, Jesus, we had supply. *They* were eating grubs, nuts, thistles. When we finally up and bust off the beach we found Arnie Bragg, kid missing on recon; the Japs had *eaten* the sonofabitch, if you'll pardon the, uh... And this was a scrawny, pimply kid too, nothin' to write home about. I mean, I never would've, ya know, so what do I say, honey? When I don't like dinner, what do I say?

Ann smiles wanly.

...I say, Jesus, honey, Arnie 

He roars with laughter.

Ed gives an acknowledging smile.

...Arnie Bragg--*again*?!

He dries his eyes with the corner of a napkin.

In the film, as directed, it is Doris’ scene.  On the screen it is her who with laud laughter approvingly comments Dave’s jokes.  There is no question she is for him.  In this moment and most likely in every other way possible. Clearly they must be lovers.  Moreover through her reactions (and the way they are framed, shot and timed of course) the scene becomes the Doris’s scene. 

It is a great example how the unscripted reaction can significantly expand a scene. 



The Man Who Wasn't There, 
by the Coen Brothers. 

By some strange turn of events I saw that truly brilliant film only a few nights ago.   As  a clever allegory for modernity and the storytelling itself it made a huge impression on me:

The elegy for a broken civilization 

camouflaged in a stylish and fancy package.  

Inertia.  It comes from laziness.  

The man who wasn't there.  

Many men weren’t there. 

Many aren’t.

Many won’t.   

All of them absent. 



If they are not weak, they are fools.  

If they are specially gifted, they are very rare and almost freaks. 

Everything hurts with its lack of satisfaction, 

passion and fulfillment. 

The only fleeting moment of relief 

is delivered by a long dead music genius 

or a fresh young girl unaware of brutal future 

waiting for everyone.  

The future that the barber already knows. 

The future of loss, laziness, fear and paralysis. 

UFOs and their pathetic attempts to make sense.


How idiotic.  Or could it be true?

All brainwashed.  Alcohol.  Booze.   Daily drudgery.    

“Throughout all that 

we cut the hair”. 

Futility.   Despair.  

“There is not “what happened”.  Looking at something changes it.”  The Heisenberg Principle in life.

“Science, perception, reality, doubt.  Reasonable doubt.  The more you look, the less you really know.  

That’s a fact.  The only fact that is.”  

Freddie delivers the big speech.  As if an Alien bathed in light.  

Could that mean that all (true) answers are absurd?  Not from this world?

“The more we know the less we know.”
The style tries to catch up with the story and by design fails to do so.  

It happens that way because the film is also about the inability

to contain the truth within a genre.  

The Heisenberg Principle in storytelling.  

The characters as the prisoners of style.  

Ed is seemingly cool.  

In reality he is miserable and scared shitless.  

He wants out of his style.  That’s why he extends himself toward Birdy. 

But Ed Crane can’t escape to be a barber.  

When he waits for Birdy to finish her audition 

he does not see young boys waiting against the opposite wall.  

He only sees their hairdos.  

Then he learns that the girl does not have a soul to be a pianist.  

Does he have a soul?

Just before he is executed his perception is again only that of a barber. 

(Even though earlier he saw a UFO!)

Just like a filmmaker, he can’t escape his tools. 

A man who finally learns to accept 

that his identity is his job.  

That’s the best he can do.  





Reincarnation is hard

Cloud Atlas 
directed by the Wachowski siblings and Tom Tykwer

Having suffered through two movies that deal with the subject of reincarnation ( “Cloud Atlas” directly, “The Master” through one of its characters) I can’t restrain myself any longer. The hubris of some storytellers!

If there is something complex and mysterious going on in our world most of us flatten and vulgarize it by subscribing to a reductionist, comic view of the migration of consciousness. The reductionist reincarnation theory (a soul gets plopped into a body after body) becomes particularly ridiculous when portrayed in a film like “Cloud Atlas”.

Due to the limitations of the film medium the concept of the migration has to be illustrated either by the same actor playing various host-bodies or by displaying telling, particular mannerisms with different actors playing the same soul. While the latter seems more sophisticated, the former is just painful to watch, regardless of the quality of acting.

The meaning of life, universe and it all most of the time kicks hard in their butts those who dare to uncover it on film. Even very good filmmakers like Terrence Malick (“The Three of Life”) or Darren Aranofsky (“The Fountain”) got strong bruises from the encounters with the number 44. Both however have under their belts other films that I consider perfect.

The same goes for Paul Thomas Anderson who on my best films ever list has two (“Magnolia”, “There will be blood”.) Not so with “The Master”. Although PTA does not talk about reincarnation there and only uses it as a suspicious obsession of the titled hero I suspect that the mess that the film is in could be the revenge of the number 44.   The revenge of reincarnation called in vein, if you will.

Who does it right than?  For sure Kubrick in “2001”, Kieslowski in “Red” and perhaps in “Double life of Veronique”.