The Man Who Wasn't There - Story

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  The Man Who Wasn't There    Set in and around Santa Rosa, California in 1949, the film follows Ed Crane (Billy Bob Thornton), a suburban  barber, married to Doris (Frances McDormand), a  bookkeeper with a drinking problem. Doris' boss at Nirdlinger's, the local department store, is Big Dave Brewster (James Gandolfini), a loud, boisterous man, who constantly brags about his combat adventures in the Pacific Theatre during World War II where he claims to have served as a crack infantry trooper. Ed, by contrast, was rejected from the army due to flat feet and shows little emotion. Ed suspects that Doris and Big Dave are having an affair. The barber shop where Ed works is owned  by his  brother-in-law Frank, a good-natured man of Italian ancestry who talks incessantly. A customer named Creighton Tolliver (Jon Polito) tells Ed that he's a businessman looking for investors in a new technology called dry cleaning. Ed decides he wants to invest and schemes to get the money by anonymously blackmailing Big Dave for the $10,000 he needs. Big Dave, not suspecting anything, confides in Ed that he's being blackmailed, asking for guidance. Ed advises him to pay. Dave delivers the money without seeing Ed make the pick-up. Ed brings the money to Tolliver and signs partnership paperwork. Big Dave calls Ed, asking him to meet at Nirdlinger's. Tolliver (whom Big Dave refers to as the pansy due to his apparent homosexuality) had also approached Big Dave, asking him for $10,000. Thinking it too much of a coincidence that he was asked for the same sum of money he was blackmailed for, Big Dave tracked the man down and beat a confession out of him. Enraged by Ed's betrayal, Big Dave attacks Ed and begins to strangle him. Ed stabs him in the neck with a knife that Dave kept in his office as a cigar cutter and Big Dave dies. Ed goes home, where his wife is still unconscious from her alcoholic binge at the wedding they had attended that day. Once evidence of Doris' affair with Big Dave is uncovered, and since she can't account for her activities (she was passed out drunk) at the time of the murder, she becomes the prime suspect. With the local lawyers deemed insufficient for such an important case, Ed is persuaded to hire Freddy Riedenschneider (Tony Shalhoub), an expensive defense attorney from Sacramento, who arrives and takes up residence in the best and most expensive hotel in town. Meanwhile, Big Dave's widow, Ann (Katherine Borowitz), stops by Ed's house to assure him that she knows Doris did not murder Big Dave. She then tells him of a camping trip she had taken with Big Dave outside of Eugene, Oregon, the previous summer. She claims that an alien space ship landed near their campsite, and that Big Dave was taken aboard the ship. She insists that Big Dave's murder is part of a government conspiracy to cover up the alien abduction. While Ed, Doris, and Riedenschneider are brainstorming defense strategies, Ed confesses to the murder. Riedenschneider blows him off, thinking Ed is simply fabricating an uncorroborated story to cover for his wife. Instead, Riedenschneider thinks that he's found a winning legal strategy when a private detective he'd hired digs up evidence that Big Dave was lying about his war heroism. The lawyer plans to present an alternate theory that the real killer was someone who was  blackmailing Dave with this information. On the first day of the trial, Doris and the judge are both late. When the judge arrives, he calls the counsel to the bench and dismisses the case. Doris has committed suicide, hanging herself in her jail cell. Riedenschneider leaves with all of Ed's life savings. An autopsy later reveals that  Doris was pregnant, despite not having had sex with Ed for years. All during the trial, Ed had  been visiting Birdy Abundas (Scarlett Johansson), a friend's teenage daughter. Ed is enthralled  by her piano-playing and wants to pay for further lessons to help her have a career as a pianist. Driving her back from an unsuccessful attempt to impress a piano teacher, Jacques Carcanogues (Adam Alexi-Malle), Birdy makes a pass at Ed and attempts to perform oral sex on him. Ed tries to stop her; the car swerves across the road to avoid hitting an oncoming car and crashes. When Ed awakens in a hospital bed, two police officers (Christopher Kriesa and Brian Haley) tell him he's under arrest for murder. Ed assumes that Birdy died in the crash, but it turns out that Birdy is fine and he is actually being arrested for Tolliver's murder. A young boy swimming in a lake discovered Tolliver, beaten to death by Brewster and submerged in his car. In his briefcase is the contract Ed signed; the police now believe that Ed coerced Doris into embezzling the money from Nirdlinger's to use in the investment, and that Ed is the person who killed the pansy. Ed is arraigned for the murder and mortgages his house to re-hire Riedenschneider. His opening statement to the jury is interrupted when Ed's brother-in-law Frank (Michael Badalucco) attacks Ed; a mistrial is declared. With no money and nothing left to mortgage, Ed is given the inadequate local lawyer. The new lawyer guides Ed to plead guilty and throw himself on the mercy of the court. The gambit doesn't work, and the judge sentences him to death. Ed writes his story out from his cell on death row, to sell to a pulp magazine that pays him by the word. While waiting on death row, he dreams of walking out to the prison courtyard and seeing a flying saucer, to which he reacts with a simple nod. At the end of the film he is walked to the electric chair and strapped in, where he sits thinking about meeting his wife and possibly having the words to explain his thoughts to her. He regrets none of his actions, except that they may have caused pain for others. ********* ********* ********* The Stranger   (novel) Albert Camus   Plot Part One begins with Meursault being notified of his mother's death. At her funeral, he expresses none of the expected emotions of grief. When asked if he wishes to view the body, he says no, and, instead, smokes and drinks coffee with milk before the coffin. Rather than expressing his feelings, he only comments to the reader about the others at the funeral. He later encounters Marie, a former employee of his firm, and the two become re-acquainted and begin to have a sexual relationship, regardless of the fact that Meursault's mother died just a day before. In the next few days, he helps his friend and neighbour, Raymond Sintès, take revenge on a Moorish girlfriend suspected of infidelity. For Raymond, Meursault agrees to write a letter to his girlfriend, with the sole purpose of inviting her over so that Raymond can have sex with her and  beat her up one last time. Meursault sees no reason not to help him, and it pleases Raymond. He does not express concern that Raymond's girlfriend is going to be injured, as he believes Raymond's story that she has been unfaithful, and he himself is both somewhat drunk and  characteristically unfazed by any feelings of empathy. In general he considers other people either interesting or annoying. The letter works: the girlfriend returns and Raymond beats her. Raymond is taken to court where Meursault testifies that she had been unfaithful, and Raymond is let off with a warning. After this, the girlfriend's brother and several Arab friends begin tailing Raymond. Raymond invites Meursault and Marie to a friend's beach house for the weekend, and when there, they encounter the spurned girlfriend's brother and an Arab friend; these two confront Raymond and wound him with a knife during a fist fight. Later, walking back along the beach alone and now armed with a  pistol he took from Raymond so that Raymond would not do anything rash, Meursault encounters the Arab. Meursault is now disoriented on the edge of heatstroke, and when the Arab flashes his knife at him, Meursault shoots. Despite killing the Arab man with the first gunshot, he shoots the cadaver four more times after a brief pause. He does not divulge to the reader any specific reason for his crime or emotions he experiences at the time, if any, aside from the fact that he was bothered by the heat and bright sunlight. Part Two begins with Meursault incarcerated, explaining his arrest, time in prison, and upcoming trial. His general detachment makes living in prison very tolerable, especially after he gets used to the idea of not being able to go places whenever he wants to and no longer being able to satisfy his sexual desires with Marie. He passes the time sleeping, or mentally listing the objects he owned back in his apartment building. At the trial, Meursault's quietness and passivity is seen as demonstrative of his seeming lack of remorse or guilt by the prosecuting attorney, and so the attorney concentrates more upon Meursault's inability or unwillingness to cry at his mother's funeral than on the actual murder. The attorney pushes Meursault to tell the truth but never comes through and later, on his own, Meursault explains to the reader that he simply was never really able to feel any remorse or personal emotions for any of his actions in life. The dramatic  prosecutor theatrically denounces Meursault to the point that he claims Meursault must be a soulless monster, incapable of remorse and that he thus deserves to die for his crime. Although Meursault's attorney defends him and later tells Meursault that he expects the sentence to be light, Meursault is alarmed when the judge informs him of the final decision: that he will be decapitated publicly. In prison, while awaiting the execution of his death sentence by the guillotine, Meursault meets with a chaplain, but rejects his proffered opportunity of turning to God, explaining that God is a waste of his time. Although the chaplain persists in attempting to lead Meursault from his atheism, Meursault finally accosts him in a rage, with a climactic outburst on his frustrations and the absurdity of the human condition; his personal anguish at the meaninglessness of his existence without respite. That at the beginning of his outrage he mentions other people in anger, that they have no right to judge him, for his actions or for who he is, no one has the right to judge someone else. Meursault ultimately grasps the universe's indifference towards humankind (coming to terms with his execution): As if that blind rage had washed me clean, rid me of hope; for the first time, in that night alive with signs and stars, I opened myself to the benign indifference of the world. Finding it so much like myself   —  so like a brother, really  —  I felt that I had been happy and that I was happy again. For everything to be consummated, for me to feel less alone, I had only to wish that there be a large crowd of spectators the day of my execution and that they greet me with cries of hate.   Characters Meursault - is a French Algerian who learns of his mother's death by telegram. Meursault's indifference to the news of his mother's death demonstrates some emotional detachment from his environment. There are multiple instances throughout the novel where significant moments do not have an emotional impact on Meursault. He doesn't show emotion to the fact that his mother is dead, Marie loves him or that he killed an Arab. Another aspect of Meursault is that he is an honest person. He always speaks his mind and does not care how other people see him. He is regarded as a stranger to society due to his indifference. Raymond Sintes - is the neighbor of Meursault who beats his mistress which causes a conflict with the Arabs. He brings Meursault into the conflict which ultimately results in Meursault killing the Arab. Raymond can be a foil character of Meursault in that he takes action while Meursault is indifferent. Raymond and Meursault seem to develop a bond as the story goes on and ends with Raymond Sintes testifying for Meursault during his trial. Raymond also views things on what he owns- he assaults a woman because she cheated and he insists Meursault is his friend after a simple favor from Meursault. Marie Cardona - was a typist in the same workplace as Meursault. A day after Meursault's mother's funeral she meets him at a beach which sparks their relationship. She asks if Meursault loves her but Meursault replies that he doesn't think so. He still agrees to marry her but he gets arrested for killing the Arab. Marie, like Meursault, enjoys physical contact in their relationship through the act of sex. She represents the enjoyable life Meursault wants and she is also the only reason that Meursault regrets going to jail. Masson - is the owner of the beach house where Raymond takes Marie and Meursault. Masson is a carefree person who simply likes to live his life and be happy. He wants to live life without restrictions. Salamano - is an old man who beats his dog and routinely takes it out for walks. He ends up losing his dog and asks Meursault for advice. Meursault does not offer helpful advice and Salamano acknowledges that his life has changed. Character Foils In the novel, Albert Camus creates a number of  character foils for Meursault's character in order to bring out various features. Meursault and Thomas Perez  –   The relationship that Thomas has with Meursault's mother is one of the few in the novel that show a real emotional attachment. This is a contrast to the relationship that Meursault had with his mother. Whereas Meursault shows indifference to her death, Thomas is truly hurt by this event. Meursault and Raymond Sintes  –   This is one of the more obvious foils in this novel. Raymond is insincere and telling lies is nothing new to him. He is somewhat thoughtless  –   this can be seen in his letter to his mistress, which was quite ruthless. On the other hand, Meursault is very honest
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