After Hours: Flashback Flix

Sarah Nicholson, Blogger

Flashback Flix: The Man Who Cried

If there is one question I can’t stand it’s “What’s your favorite movie?” Really? What’s your favorite organ? Every film offers a different view and landscape that in many cases is incomparable. John Hughes body of work is no less brilliant than Francis Ford Coppola’s, Back to the Future is no less culturally significant than Rocky Horror Picture Show. That’s not to say that there aren’t movies I loathe. Some films are a blatant attempt by a studio to get a write-off, but asking me for a favorite is literally like asking me what organ I prefer. They all serve a purpose.

I have come up with a default answer to this question though because it insists on being posed. While there may not be a favorite, there are films that stand out in any film junkies evolution. Films that changed the ‘like’ of movies into a hardcore love affair. For me that came in the form of a Johnny Depp film. I first started paying attention to his work after stumbling across Crybaby. It was weird and cheesy, but great. It launched an interest in other films of his and that’s how I found The Man Who Cried.

This has been my default film for the “Favorite Movie” question ever since, because it was the game changer in how I viewed movies. For those of you who think that everything Johnny Depp has ever done has revolved around Jack Sparrow inspired caricatures and Tim Burton nepotism, there is a whole set of really good films that you’re missing out on. From about 1993 through 2004 Johnny Depp was an actor with range.

Within that time period he had a knack for playing characters that not only felt real, but that were incredibly compelling. The Man Who Cried was released on video in 2000, about the same time that my Aunt thought that I was responsible enough to finally house sit for her. Most teens throw house parties when they find themselves liberated from adults for the weekend. Me? I used my newly borrowed freedom as a chance to watch movies I knew my family would never be interested in. I walked up to the video store, yes, an actual video store, and rented a whole stack of things that I thought looked interesting and among them was The Man Who Cried, starring Christina Ricci, Cate Blanchette, John Turturro, and of course Johnny Depp.

It’s a movie about a young Eastern European Jewish woman named Suzie (Ricci), who finds herself an orphan of circumstance. Determined to find her father, she must make her way through Paris on the cusp of the Nazi occupation. Faced with having to hide her past, Suzie is forced to choose sides. More importantly she has to decide if the desire to find a father, who may not even be alive anymore, is worth leaving the person she loves the most, behind.

I’m not a huge fan of World War II movies, mainly because I believe that over exposure can lead to desensitization. I think that it’s important not to become aestheticized to the horror that occurred. So when I do watch World War II movies I look for films that come at it from different angles. That’s what I loved the most about The Man Who Cried. It is character driven. It’s not concentration camps and looming evil government spies. It’s people, living their daily existences, trying to keep their little corners of the world spinning. It’s not just the Jewish vs. Nazi perspective, either. It’s gypsies, men and women, poor people, rich people, entitled people and people who are trying to overcome their past, and people who are trying to carve out their futures. There is a complexity to this movie that slips into the spaces in your mind and ruminates there. That’s why when people ask me what my favorite film is, I default to this movie, because it has stayed with me and moved my girlish crush on a talented actor, on to a real respect for what movies are capable of doing. The Man Who Cried, did what good stories should do for an audience, it permeated my teenage consciousness and made me feel genuine empathy for something I had no experience with.

If you get a chance I encourage you to check out the movie. And if you like the gravity and genuine nature of Depp’s performance, I suggest also checking his other films from the same period, specifically, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Finding Neverland, Chocolat, From Hell, and Benny and Joon.