Thursday, September 4, 2008

Coens Part 2: The Early and Overlooked

Blood Simple (1985)

In 1984, the Coen brothers produced, wrote and directed their first feature film. This is a dark, twisted movie that deserves your attention. In many ways it is a prototype to No Country For Old Men Set in an anonymous small town in Texas, a flawed, tortured man makes a deal with the devil. And then it all goes wrong. Classic Noir.

Francis McDormand makes her film debut. It also features the endlessly creepy Dan Hedaya (Nick Tortelli from Cheers) and M. Emmit Walsh (Doctor Jelly Finger from Fletch).

Take the time to watch the following trailer. Put it on full screen and really watch it. Look at that opening shot of the freshly plowed field, sound of a shovel digging as the camera slowly pans to a man digging a grave by the headlights of his parked car. This is a chilling movie. If you were at all a fan of No Country For Old Men, than you really need to watch Blood Simple. It is every bit as good. Well, maybe not. But it’s in the ballpark. For a debut film, can you ask for more?

Miller's Crossing (1990)

Miller's Crossing is the third movie made by my buddies (Raising Arizona was between them). This is a prohibition, Chicago gangster movie. Not only is it set in that era, it feels like it was made in that era. It is definitely a homage / tribute / ripoff of the classic mobster films of the 30’s. The old timey dialogue, the twisting storyline of double and triple crossing. The Fedora clad men with a cigarette hanging out the corner of their mouth. A silhouetted conversation between a man and woman who mutual disdain is only eclised by their reciprocal lust. The only thing this movie is missing is Edward G Robinson and his Chief Wiggum-like “Mmmnnyeaaa!”

This is the first time the Coens worked with two main stays, John Turturro and Steve Buscemi. Both joined the cast of regulars that include John Goodman, Francis Mcdormand and Charles Durning that would be featured in about every other Coen movie from here on out.

The following are two clips from the movie. The first is the opening scene in which the conflict between the two main factions is laid out. The Irish mob boss Leo and the Italian up-and-comer Casper. The plot twists and turns but at all times, it is true to itself. The second clip is a great scene featuring a hit attempt on Leo played by Albert Finney. It is pretty much spoiler free but it is some great action . It features an excellent use of the song “Danny Boy”. Again, please take the time to watch these. This is a film that may feature drab cinematography, confusing loyalties and a lot of talking. But stick with it. It beats the hell out of The Untouchables, that's for sure.


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