Monday, July 09, 2012

Johnny Kitties: Celebrating Johnny Depp Film #22--The Man Who Cried (2000)

[What is Johnny Kitties? See Johnny Kitties: Celebrating Johnny Depp for all the details.]

This one's almost as depressing as Before Night Falls.
The Man Who Cried follows a Russian Jewish woman (Christina Ricci) as she searches for her father, who emigrated to American in 1923. Although he promised to send for his daughter and his mother once he was settled there, their village was attacked and burned soon after he left. Separated from her grandmother, she ends up on a ship to England, where she is renamed Suzie and brought up by a British family. Years later, Suzie's talent for singing earns her a job with a Paris theatre troupe. There, she meets Lola (Cate Blanchett), a fellow Russian from Moscow, and Cesar (Johnny Depp), a Romanian gypsy with whom she falls in love. But her Russian Jewish background suddenly puts her in danger when the Nazis invade Paris, and she is forced to decide whether to stay with her friends or head to America in search of her father.

As usual, Cate Blanchett won awards for her great performance here. This time, she got two for Best Supporting Actress--one from the Florida Film Critics Circle and one from the National Board of Review.

Happy birthday to me!
Although Johnny made this movie in 2000, it didn't hit theaters in the United States until the following year. In July 2001, I moved from Ohio to Washington, D.C., and The Man Who Cried was released in D.C. on my birthday, July 23--just for me, of course! I was still finding my general sense of direction in The District and my way around the Metro system, but don't think that stopped me for a second: I got on the train right after work, hunted down the one theater playing The Man Who Cried, and settled in (out of breath because I got lost trying to find the place).

To me, one of the best things about moving to D.C. was having a slew of movie theaters and bookstores accessible to me. (Sadly, neither this theater nor my favorite bookstores are around anymore.) I was excited to see this movie because--aside from the great cast--I was really impressed with director Sally Potter's earlier film Orlando, a beautiful piece of work starring Tilda Swinton. It set the bar high.

The Man Who Cried might not be as great as that movie, but it's a pretty good one. It marks Christina Ricci's first grown-up starring role, so she said it was nice to have her friend Johnny in the cast too. But that connection also made it weird for me to watch. Johnny's known Christina Ricci since she was 10 when they met on the set of Mermaids, which costarred Johnny's girlfriend at the time, Winona Ryder. While this was Johnny's third film with her, it's the first time they get anywhere near romantic. I guess if you don't know all that history, it wouldn't seem odd. (Did I just ruined it for everyone?) But, I couldn't help thinking of it. As she explained, "It's like kissing your brother." But you get over it; they're actors.

It's a good gift.
 This movie is sad, but it's got a nice slow pace with some beautiful shots that make you feel as though you're looking at pieces of artwork. The main thing I remember--and enjoyed most--about this film is that Johnny spends a lot of time saying nothing but staring moodily into the camera.  Sometimes, he does it while riding his white horse! Sometimes, it's in slow motion!!! Of course, there's a reason behind it: Johnny thought of Cesar as a man who was uncomfortable around people. "He's comfortable at a very base level, with his horse and animals, who are pure beings--innocent and honest." But, really, it's the most uplifting aspect of the movie--the staring. Even with the scar on the left side of his face, Johnny's pretty to watch. (And, when he does speak, he has a great accent, so he's nice to listen to too.)
Johnny would hate it if that's all I talked about. So, I'll also mention that this movie tells an interesting, powerful story about oppressed people who didn't have a voice at the time. I liked how Suzie and Cesar connected as outsiders, and how they helped each other while everyone was struggling to survive the war. Johnny compared the couple to Romeo and Juliet. "Cesar and Suzie had an unspoken understanding and recognition of each other," he said. "But there's no way they can be together, even without the war." Not everyone makes it through the war, but Suzie is a strong woman who eventually finds her own way.
The Kitties fit right in.
For Johnny, one of the best experiences he had while working on this movie was meeting Taraf de Haidouks, a Romanian gypsy folk band who played Cesar's family and who he continues to support. "For me, they are a model in the way they approach life," he said. "Despite all they went through--I'm talking about racism against Gypsies which went on for centuries and still exists today--these guys can play music which expresses the most intense joy. They have a gift to make you feel alive. They are among the most extraordinary people I have ever met."

They are an amazing band in their own right, but having Johnny Depp as a friend got them even more recognition. Following filming, Johnny attended award shows to present them with various honors and became one of their biggest cheerleaders, as seen at their own concerts and in the great 2006 documentary When the Road Bends: Tales of a Gypsy Caravan. For a while, when asked, he would mention them on talk shows as one of his favorite bands, a statement that was typically met with silence, bewilderment, and a quick new question. Always one to live in and appreciate the moment, Johnny definitely picked up some gypsy traits from these friends that are still apparent today.

Johnny Kitties: Celebrating Johnny Depp--Film #21--The Man Who Cried (2001) [March 22, 2012]

So, here they are, Kitty-style! When Cesar invites Suzie (Mini) to join him for a drink after hours, she is introduced to his brethren. In this lively bar scene, a dancer (Pablo Veron/B.J.) coaxes Suzie onto the floor. Watching, Cesar revels at how accepting she is of his world and how easily she becomes one of the family.

Of course, all of the other Kitties wanted in on this scene. Comet, Simon, and Norman are playing in the band while Ashes, The Mother Kitty, Mini, and Lily are enjoying it in the crowd.

What's next? 
Johnny does and deals lots of drugs in Blow.

(Aside from my illustration, all images © Universal Pictures)

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