The Man Who Cried (2000)
Director: Sally Potter.
Starring: Christina Ricci (Fegele/Suzie), Oleg Yankovsky (Father), Claudia Lander-Duke (Young Fegele/Suzie), Danny Scheinman (Man in Suit), Anna Tzelniker (Mother of Man in Suit), Hana Maria Pravda (Grandmother), Michael Mount (Boy in Cart), Harry Flinder (Boy in Cart), Danny Richman (Man in Cart), Victor Sobchak (Man at Port), Sue Cleaver (Red Cross Woman), Cliff Barry (English Port Official), Paul Clayton (Second Official), Diana Hoddinott (Foster Mother), Richard Albrecht (Foster Father), Ornella Bryant (Playground Bully), Sam Friend (Playground Bully), Isabella Melling (Playground Bully), Alan David (Welsh Teacher), Imogen Claire (Audition Mistress), Cate Blanchett (Lola), Miriam Karlin (Madame Goldstein), Johnny Depp (Cesar), Consuelo De Haviland (Party Hostess), Harry Dean Stanton (Felix Perlman), John Turturro (Dante Dominio).
Russian Jewish immigrant is endangered in a Paris, France dance troupe because of her heritage
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire movie.
A young woman named Suzie finds herself in the Atlantic Ocean amidst burning oil fires.
Russia. 1927. A young Russian Jewish girl named Fegele plays outside with her father. She sees some gypsies with their wagons passing along the road. She, like her people, speaks Yiddish. Her father is going to the United States of America. Fegele is told that he will send for the rest of the family once he is settled. Grandmother tells Fegele that she must let her father go. Dad accompanies a number of other men headed to America.
A series of explosions occur near Fegele's village. Grandmother places her in a wagon with other children to get away from the violence. Along the way the driver is shot. Later the wagon horse dies amidst the extreme cold. Fegele makes it all the way to a port where she is able to sneak on the ship invisible in the large crowd. The older boys with her are stopped. Fegele's only comfort is a picture of her father that she carries with her everywhere. When she arrives in another country, she assumes it is America. But it is England. A family takes her in, but she is not happy about having to be delayed in her search for her father. She goes to an English school and gets teased a lot. The kids called her a "raggle-taggle gypsy". She does not speak very often.
At home Fegele takes a hammer and breaks a number of her foster parents' pictures (since she thinks they "stole" her father's picture from her). The foster mother slaps her for this. One day a Welsh teacher hears Fegele (now named Suzie) singing in Yiddish. He forces her to sing in English so she will learn the language. He tells her: "You've got to learn to fit in." Later she sometimes sings for her fellow students in the auditorium.
Suzie is all grown up. She is hired as a chorus girl in a show. Her foster parents return her picture of her father and she goes with the troupe to Paris, France. The star of the troupe is a tall Russian blonde called Lola. She befriends Suzie. Suzie shows her her apartment to Lola and the blonde says she will get her extra jobs to save money for a trip to America if she can move in with Suzie. Lola learns that Suzie did not come from England originally, but from Russia. This makes her even fonder of Suzie. But when Lola speaks Russian to Suzie, she realizes that Suzie does not speak Russian. She then discovers that Suzie spoke Yiddish in Russia and that she is Jewish.
Lola, a hustler, meets the locally famous opera singer Dante Dominio. She flirts with him and he becomes interested in her. He is also interested in her friend Suzie, but Suzie is not at all interested in the man. Suzie does, however, notice a handsome gypsy man named Cesar. Dante takes Lola and Suzie out to a bar. Then he drops them off at their apartment. Later reporters ask Dante what he thinks about the rise of fascism in Italy. He defends Mussolini and the rise of fascism.
Suzie is very much an outsider and almost at times seems morose. She is not a happy camper. Cesar watches her and takes her out to a gypsy hangout. The gypsy dance performer asks Cesar if he can bring Suzie up on the floor to have her dance with him. Cesar is agreeable.
Dante pays a visit to Lola' place. He says the cramped quarters reminds him of the place where he lived as a child with his poor family. He asks Lola why her little friend refused his invitation. Cesar drops Suzie off at her apartment. As Suzie approaches her apartment door she can hear Dante and Lola having sex. She goes in and tries to sleep while the pair continues having sex. Suzie learns that her landlady Mrs. Goldstein speaks Yiddish. The two start to form a strong bond with each other.
One day on her bicycle, Suzie sees Cesar with two other gypsies all on horseback riding back to the gypsy encampment. She follows them, parks her bike and walks toward the gypsy camp. The gypsies almost stop dead in their tracks when she appears, but soon enough they are welcoming Suzie warmly. Cesar tells her that the gypsies constitute a family: "We are family We are one." The gypsies play music and then invite Suzie to sing. She does so.
Mrs. Goldstein tells Suzie the bad news that the Germans have invaded Poland. World War II has begun. Mrs. Goldstein tells Suzie not to worry. They are safe in Paris. But soon enough anti-Semitic acts start occurring. And anti-Semitism shows up at the opera. Cesar and his horse are part of the opera performance, against the wishes of Dante, who does not like animals on stage. One evening the horse take a dump on stage and Dante becomes enraged. He says that the opera is becoming a gypsy circus. He then starts to give Cesar a hard time: "You gypsies should go back to where you belong! . . . They are dirty, lazy thieves." Suzie stands up for the gypsies, which enrages Dante. He tells Lola that her little friend has become a "gypsy lover".
Outside Cesar tells Suzie that he does not need her to defend him. Suzie defends her defense. Cesar then asks her what is she. She doesn't really say. Later at night Cesar has sex with Suzie.
Suzie sees Mrs. Goldstein being taken away. She then see books being burned. She realizes that France is being changed by the arrival of the German troops on the border. Now there are few people in the opera audience. Many Parisians have left the city. Dante tells Suzie that she has a good voice and that she is a fighter like him. When Suzie refuses to let him flirt with her he starts railing against the Jews: "It was the Jews who killed Christ." And he adds that the war has been caused by a conspiracy of bankers (many of them Jews). He then tells her: "You think you're better than me." He threatens her by telling her that he could always inform on her to the Germans. The director of the opera, also a Jew, tells Dante that no one needs to know and no one is going to tell. The Germans are in northern France and are headed for Paris. Dante goes to church and prays that the Germans will win.
One day Suzie hears the the sound of thousands of men marching. The Germans have arrived in Paris. A woman who knows Dante tells the Germans that Dante sang in Perlman's opera company. Dante, who is trying to make nice with the Germans, is not happy about the remark.
The Germans harass the gypsy encampment and a young gypsy boy is killed. Dante starts singing for the Germans at various night clubs. He runs into Suzie. A German officer had noticed the pretty Suzie and asks Dante about her. In the presence of Lola, Dante tells the officer that she is a Jew. Lola is worried for Suzie. She goes to see Suzie and tells her that she needs to get out of Paris. She tells Suzie that she has a ticket for her for a trip by ship to the United States. Not only that, but Lola has a ticket for the same trip. Suzie is a bit surprised about this because she thought Lola would stay because of her relationship to Dante.
The Germans start to round up every foreigner and every Jew. Cesar talks with Suzie and tells her: "If you want to survive, perhaps you have no choice." She must leave France. Cesar goes with Suzie to her apartment. She tells Cesar: "Don't leave me, Cesar. . . . I don't want to run away" Cesar responds that in this dangerous situation "running is good". But Suzie says that she could stay and fight for Cesar. But Cesar still insists that she go find her father in America. Suzie says: "I only wish I could be with you."
Lola and Suzie get on a transatlantic liner. On board ship, Suzie sings in the ship's nightclub. An older, rich man sits at Lola's table. Lola tells Suzie later that she wants to go to Hollywood and that Suzie should come with her. She says: "We have each other again." Suzie responds with a simple: "Yes."
Airplanes are heard overhead and bombs are dropped on the ship. Swimming in the ship's pool, Lola is killed when a bomb explodes in the pool. Suzie soon finds herself in the Atlantic Ocean amidst numerous oil fires on the ocean surface. Men in a lifeboat rescue her.
In the United States a Jewish administrator helps Suzie trace her father. Suzie talks with some Jewish people who knew her father in the United States. They tell her that her father heard that his home village in Russia was attacked and all his family was killed. She then learns that her father works in Hollywood. But her father is not well. Apparently, he has worn himself out. Suzie also learns that her father has remarried and has two children. She goes to the hospital to see her father. She is a bit nervous, but her father soon says to her: "Fegele." He know her. He calls her his "little bird". She sings a song in Yiddish to her father.
Good movie. Both my wife and I liked it. They could have had a little more history in the movie, but that's not a big issue. Not surprisingly, Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci and Cate Blanchett all performed brilliantly and were very pleasurable to watch. Perhaps because of her background, Suzie had a natural sympathy with the outcast gypsies. And Hitler not only wanted to get rid of the Jews, but the gypsies also. The two groups faced a similar fate under the genocidal policies of the Germans.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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