The Man Who Cried, directed by Sally Potter (Orlando), stumbles badly over its ambitions. Gifted actors such as Christina Ricci, Cate Blanchett, Johnny Depp and John Turturro are set adrift in Potter's attempt to detail the cultural and emotional displacement caused by war. Her focus is Fegele, a Jewish girl whose widowed father, a cantor, leaves her and her grandmother in their Russian village while he departs for America in 1927 to find them a haven from persecution. Too late. After her escape, the child, now called Suzie (Ricci), is sent to a Christian foster home in England. Since Suzie can speak only Yiddish, she is taught a new language by learning English hymns. A decade later, Suzie is working as a chorus girl in Paris, along with Lola (Blanchett, sporting blond hair and an overdone Russian accent ), who gets them both jobs with an opera company. Lola beds fascist singer Dante Dominio (Turturro), leaving Suzie to find comfort in the arms of another outsider, Cesar (Depp), a Gypsy horse handler. Ricci's dark-eyed loveliness goes a long way in helping you buy into this tale of forced assimilation. Her voice is rarely heard, except in song, but her young, unlined face seems to have absorbed a lifetime of sadness. The plot escalates when Germany invades France in 1939, and Suzie continues her quest to find her beloved father, this time in Hollywood. With the help of camera legend Sacha Vierny (Last Year at Marienbad, Belle de Jour), Potter gets the period details right (heads up, Michael Bay), but the film itself has long since flown off the rails, miring good intentions in rank soap opera.
From The Archives Issue 294: June 28, 1979