Useless Europudding

Actors playing the accent game get to show off in a pic that's a maddening muddle

Rating: NN

what i call europudding movies are flicks featuring Anglo-American leads, French or Italian supporting casts, continental settings and a weird, nowhere feeling. In the mid-80s, various co-production and tax shelter deals made it viable for producers to put these kinds of movies together. But they weren’t successful, so people stopped making them, at least as quasi-English or American films. Or so I thought. Then came The Man Who Cried.

It’s the latest from Orlando director Sally Potter, and it raises some interesting questions and issues. Unfortunately, none of them has much to do with the onscreen action, which involves a Russian-Jewish orphan (Christina Ricci) trying to get to America to find her long-lost father.

Note to Ricci: Why didn’t you take the role in Terry Zwigoff’s Ghost Town that was plainly written for you? They’ve even given Thora Birch your look. There’s no credit to be gained from doing an erratic exotic accent in a Europudding movie.

You’re the great female deadpan comic actor of your generation. Why on earth are you moping about as an English-raised Russian-Jewish orphan struggling to get to America as the Nazis march into Paris? Come home. All is forgiven.

Note to Cate Blanchett: We know you’re the new Streep, queen of the accent, the more exotic the better. On the other hand, just because your piano has 88 keys doesn’t mean you have to play them all.

And just because someone says to you, “Wanna play an exotic Russian émigré whore?” doesn’t make it a good idea. Go see what Gillian Armstrong’s up to. Oscar And Lucinda is still your best role, Oscar nominations or no.

Note to Johnny Depp: There’s no difference, artistically speaking, between Nicolas Cage whoring his Oscar in brain-dead summer blockbusters and you lending your smouldering glamour to Eurotrash art movies like Chocolat and The Man Who Cried, except that Cage gets paid better and has no illusions that he’s being true to his “art.”

Also, playing romantic gypsies in back-to-back films is a sign of real laziness. OK, Lasse Hallström (Chocolat) gave you one of your first big roles, in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?, but what’s Sally Potter ever done for you?

Doing this kind of picture makes sense for John Turturro, who uses Europe to escape the casting destiny of his ethnicity. In America, one suspects he’d play a lot more gangsters and a lot fewer opera singers and chess masters.

Note to Sally Potter: Please stop. The credit garnered by the astonishingly overrated Orlando has pretty much been exhausted by The Tango Lesson and The Man Who Cried.

THE MAN WHO CRIED written and directed by Sally Potter, produced by Christopher Sheppard, with Christina Ricci, Cate Blanchett, Johnny Depp and John Turturro. 97 minutes. A Working Title/Studio Canal + production. Opens Friday (July 13). For venues and times, see First-Run Movies, page 67. Rating: NN

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