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🎬 #96 The Coen Brother's Genre.
I have to admit that I like the Coen Brother’s films a lot. But they’re not my go to favourite filmmakers the way they are for a lot of people, even if the two this week are films I’m really fond of.
But for me, the most incredible thing about them as filmmakers is that the same people who made this week’s films also made No Country For Old Men and most recently The Tragedy of Macbeth [Dir Joel Cohen].
They probably have the most range out of any modern filmmaker and yet all their films become very much them in some strange way. They have a genre all onto themselves.
Happy choosing, happy viewing
FILM ONE: THE BIG LEBOWSKI
1998 Dir The Coen Brothers
[1hr 57 mins]
This is now an iconic film that’s filled with memorable quotes - ‘You human paraquat’ is a personal favourite and I found out recently that ‘paraquat’ is weed killer. Billed as from ‘the creator’s of Fargo’ in the trailer, this is the Coen’s at their most whacky. It’s like an Adam Sandler movie by way of China Town. A ‘loser’ self-titled The Dude, gets caught up in a scheme of revenge and all he wants is his rug back. It ranges from surrealist dream scenarios to slapstick, to rage comedy - ‘this is what happens when you fuck a stranger in the ass.’ It’s a wild ride and one I revisted recently with pretty fresh eyes, having not seen it for a long time. It’s a remarkable achievement that they blended together so many insane ingredients into one fun story packed with character’s that feel utterly real. Steve Buscemi’s constantly stepped on, Donny, brings a heartfelt note to the piece, even if he’s involved in one of the best physical gags.
Outrageous and perfectly acted - Philip Seymour Hoffman’s character opens some double doors in a way few other actor’s could - the film feels like it was almost too much fun to make. Their perfectly plotted writing never misses a beat and you’re involved from the get go. There’s a snappy metaphysical-ness to the story that unfolds like a weirdly timeless fable. I’m just glad someone like The Dude is out there.
TL;DR The Coen’s comedy noir is a cultural touchstone for a reason, dive back in to appreciate just how brilliantly mad it actually is.
*Available for a small rental fee on Amazon, Apple, Google and YouTube in the US as well as the UK.
Fact: The Dude’s wardrobe consisted entirely of Jeff Bridges’ own clothes and apparently my favourite line ‘human paraquat’ was one of the few improvised lines during the shoot.
FILM TWO: THE HUDSUCKER PROXY
1994 Dir The Coen Brothers
This might be my favourite film of theirs. And I found out about it in what used to be one of my favourite ways to find out about a film - catch it randomly on late night TV. I was probably 12 when I saw it if not younger - and it kind of plays like a live action cartoon. It’s such a fun, charming and enjoyable…story. It’s a great film that I need to rewatch a bit more. It’s like The Jerk meets Trading places - the story follows a hapless character ‘Norville’ played by Tim Robbins and his innocent part in a scheme devised by the evil bosses of the company where he works as a mail room attendant. But their plan backfires deliciously when he comes up with an idea, immortalised in the line ‘you know, for kids.’
I love the creativity of the film, and the always enjoyable story of one man going up against the system, even if he doesn’t know that he’s being plotted against. Humbleness, innocence and kid-like imagination make this a lovely film to dip your toe back into.
TL;DR The Coen’s amazingly titled film takes us into Disney-esque territory, another arrow in their developing quiver.
*Available for a small rental fee on Amazon, Apple, Google and YouTube in the US but not in the UK, but if you have a VPN you can watch them over this side of the Atlantic.
Fact: The film was co-written by Sam Raimi who also has a brief voice cameo.
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