Archive for Coen brothers

City Limits

Posted in FILM, Politics with tags , , , , , , , on February 26, 2014 by dcairns

Films seen in London, England — (slight spoilers for INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS) –

You could play a pretty good drinking game with LONE SURVIVOR, the worrisome Afghanistan conflict story. Simply take a shot anytime any character says something optimistic (e.g., “We’re going to be OK,”) and then gets shot in the foot. A shot for a shot. You would die of alcohol poisoning before the halfway mark.

Alternative title: MARK WAHLBERG SLOWLY BECOMES A POBBLE.

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Clarification: by “pretty good drinking game” I mean “something you should not do, ever.”

The movie is excitingly-staged warnography, and gave me a very bad feeling.

Inside Llewyn Davis: teaser trailer - video

One way of looking at INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS is as the feline version of Clint Eastwood’s THE CHANGELING.

Another way of looking at it is this — a common narrative trope of films made in the early sixties, when this film is set, but particularly in the UK (e.g. SATURDAY NIGHT AND SUNDAY MORNING, A TASTE OF HONEY), is that whenever anybody has sex they get pregnant (if they’re a woman). Cue backstreet abortion and misery. Joy must not go unpunished, especially if you’re working class (this “yes, but” model informs socially conscious narratives from LAND WITHOUT BREAD and LOS OLVIDADOS to the present day: every silver lining must have its cloud). The question of birth control simply does not arise, since in that primitive age condoms were unmentionable. We don’t wonder about Albert Finney knocking up Rachel Roberts, I think it is (married to another man — did this directly inspire Carey Mulligan’s predicament in ILD?), despite his being characterised as someone experienced and aware of the biological processes. In INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS we do wonder about it a bit, especially as Carey Mulligan has a big speech about condoms and how Llewyn should be permanently wrapped in one, and especially as we learn this has happened before. Drunkenness, sure, and the guy’s kind of a dick, but still…

Actually, apart from the who serial impregnator thing, and some nasty heckling of another act late in the story, Llewyn’s dickishness seemed entirely justified to me. Maybe that’s why I’m not a bigger success in life. The only person he doesn’t offend, really, is F. Murray Abraham (always a welcome face, with the best scene in the film) — I guess because Abraham makes it clear he’s not offering any help. Llewyn only alienates people who might help him. Is that a character trait or a plot device?

***

London, until Saturday. Hoping to meet regular Shadowplayer Anne Billson, who’s passing through the big smoke too, on Saturday. Expect pictures! Possibly involving skulls. But the purpose of the trip is even more groovy, if such a thing were possible. Not sure when I’ll be able to tell you…

Grease Monkey Business

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , on July 19, 2012 by dcairns

The Coen Brothers, back when BLOOD Simple was new, were asked about modern noir and in particular the new version of THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE with Jessica Lange and Jack Nicholson. Not yet having learned the form of good manners that seems to prevail in the film industry, whereby filmmakers rarely badmouth each others’ work (in this, as much else, Ken Russell was un vrai enfant terrible), they remarked that Pauline Kael’s criticism of the film seemed to them dead right.

Kael had basically said that the scene in James M. Cain’s book when a man is murdered just as he sings out into a valley, and his voice echoes back after his death to alarm his murderer, was pure cinema, and that nobody with an ounce of cinematic sense could possibly omit it from a movie adaptation. Now, Bob Rafelson, that film’s director, showed considerable cinematic sense, or at least flair, in his work –

But he must bear some responsibility for leaving out that compelling detail, and for truncating the book’s grimly ironic ending. (Though in fairness, his film delivers on some other key moments.) But if we have to point the finger of blame, I’d sooner point it at David Mamet, who does seem to me to display an anti-cinematic impulse in nearly everything he touches. An exception can be made for THE UNTOUCHABLES, where Mamet’s speechifying and DePalma’s showy excess hold each other in a kind of goofy equilibrium.

Anyhow, both Cain’s murder scene and his ending are intact in the FIRST version of Postman, which might not be the version you’re thinking of. Check it out at The Forgotten.

Schlock Corridor

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , on June 15, 2011 by dcairns

I idly wondered if the best bit from Sam Raimi’s CRIMEWAVE (his second film, following THE EVIL DEAD, co-written with the Coens) was on YouTube. Of course it was.

A strangely beautiful bit of live-action cartooning.

CRIMEWAVE was the victim of consistent and egregious studio interference — they refused to allow Bruce Campbell to play the lead, despite his modest EVIL DEAD cult status (their replacement choice is a complete no-name) and messed with the score and sound effects. What with Raimi mixing Three Stooges slapstick with Hong Kong action cinema camerawork, the result is a rather deafening bit of chaos: I know from experience that an extra cook or two can turn something from “lively” into “irritating” in short order. But a few bits are beautiful. I wish Raimi had brought some more of his style to the SPIDERMAN franchise, which was one of the better superhero things while it lasted but seemed to have been through some kind of extravagance removal program.

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