Author: A.J. Serrano

December 9, 2013 / / Main Slate Archive


The opening shot of THE MAN WHO WASN’T THERE (2001), the Coen brothers’ homage to classical Hollywood film noir, depicts two black and white lines swirling side by side up toward some unseen destination. The image is hypnotic and abstract, more reminiscent of visuals found in an old sci-fi movie than a gritty film noir. But then the opening credits end, and the camera pulls back to reveal that what we have been looking at is no more than a traditional barber pole. Soon after this shot we are greeted by the familiar conventions and iconography of classical Hollywood noir: cops, criminals, and endless billows of cigarette smoke, all framed by moody black and white cinematography. And yet, the impact of that opening visual still lingers in our memory. The echoes of sci-fi influence are understandable; for THE MAN WHO WASN’T THERE is not just a well-crafted neo-noir, but also a movie about an alien stranded among humans.