Posted by Hedwig on January 16, 2008
Click here for the blurbs.
It’s funny what happens when you see so many (5) films by the same director(s) in such a short time (1.5 weeks). You start seeing patterns, recurring motifs. The movies stay separate, each in their own neatly defined little period of history, each built on the foundations of a different genre, but through them you start seeing the brains at work.
Miller’s Crossing takes place during prohibition. Barton Fink in 1941. The Hudsucker Proxy in 1958. The former is a pretty straightforward (at least for the Coens) variation on the lone-guy-playing-two-crime-syndicates-against-one-another story – as seen in Yojimbo & A Fistful of Dollars, but truly going on the way back to two Dashiell Hammett novels, Red Harvest & the Glass Key. Barton Fink is almost a horror film, creepy and with a grand apocalyptic finale, a tale about writing and pretension. The Hudsucker Proxy is kind of a screwball comedy. Still, I don’t really want to discuss them one by one as separate, free-standing entities. Instead, I want to talk about the echos and reflections I saw.
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Posted in Coen bros. | Tagged: Albert Finney, Barton Fink, Dashiell Hammett, Gabriel Byrne, Jennifer Jason Leigh, John Turturro, Marcia Gay Harden, Miller's Crossing, neo-noir, Steve Buscemi, The Hudsucker Proxy, Tim Robbins | 2 Comments »
Posted by Hedwig on January 13, 2008
Coen movie night #2 is upon us! We won’t actually be watching Barton Fink, but I really wanted to write a blurb anyway. I think I’m gonna try to stick to the thriller+comedy rythm, meaning next time (which will probably be after the film festival) will bring us Fargo & The Big Lebowski, and the time after that The Man Who Wasn’t There & O’ Brother Where Art Thou.
You could easily write a dozen essays about this movie. You could write at length about its noir influences, about the use of language, about the themes loyalty, death, chance, you could even see a political allegory of some kind in there. To the Coens, however, Miller’s Crossing is just a movie about a hat. It’s also, like Blood Simple, a movie about crime, adultery, murder, but this time it’s set during prohibition, and the protagonists are gangsters. Leo’s the boss, Velma is his wife, and Tom is his right hand, and that’s all I’m going to reveal about the plot.
The first Coen bros. movie made with their new DP Roger Deakins is about Barton Fink (John Turtutto), who writes plays about the common man. Or so he thinks. When he gets drafted by Hollywood to write a script “with that Barton Fink feeling”. He’s put up into a big hotel where he meets only creepy clerk Chet (played by Coen regular Steve Buscemi) and his neighbor Charlie (another regular: John Goodman), and promptly develops writer’s block – the Coens in fact wrote this film when they were suffering from the same condition on Miller’s Crossing. Stuck in the claustrophobia-inducing hotel, with nothing but a picture to look at and the wallpaper peeling off the walls, Barton Fink slowly goes crazy. As an audience, you think you might be, too. The crazy, out-there, apocalyptic finale doesn’t exactly lift the spirits, either, but you’ll never forget it.
The Hudsucker Proxy (blurb courtesy of Kaj)
The Hudsucker Proxy bombed upon release and was largely dismissed by the critics, but has since then gained a following and well deserved respect. Another great comedy by the Coens, a satire of the American Dream in which an innocent young man from the countryside arrives in New York and is soon placed at the top of a large company by cynical board members who want the company to go bankrupt, so they can by up it’s stock cheap. They didn’t count on him inventing the Hula Hoop. The meticulously scripted film is one of the Coens’ visually most arresting ones, and also one of their funniest. No Coen regulars were cast as main characters, but Tim Robbins, Jennifer Jason Leigh and especially Paul Newman are all wonderful, and enough Coen cronies turn up in small supporting roles. Works great as a homage to old screwball comedies in some parts and to Capraesque drama in others, and is delightful in all.
Posted in Coen bros. | Tagged: Albert Finney, Barton Fink, Coen brothers, Gabriel Byrne, hat, Hudsucker Proxy, Jennifer Jason Leigh, John Goodman, John Turturro, Marcia Gay Harden, Miller's Crossing, noir, Paul Newman, Roger Deakins, Steve Buscemi, Tim Robbins | 2 Comments »