Joel Coen and Ethan Coen


Date: October 14, 2010

Author: Srivathsa

Often mentioned as “The Coen Brothers”, Joel Coen and Ethan Coen are very clever directors whose expressionism and unidentifiable artificial fabrication are drawn to an extent of film making, where the direction seems to be so perfect and so intelligent. Their unique style of film making makes them stand out of the crowd. The eccentricities and the extremes of the beautifully drawn characters move into the world of their movies, so very naturally and convincingly. That is the irony.

“Blood Simple (1984)” is where it all began. The movie is the portrayal of darkness in human beings and the film itself characterizes it with maturity. Their movies have ethnographic implication and it was Texas in “Blood Simple”. The movie was also revelation of a new generation of directors. The gripping, at times darkly comic moments, formed the instinctive and austere note of the Coens. It is iconic film noir, gothic style especially the chilling climax. These brothers they don’t waste a shot. Their movies are firmly scripted and I have seen an exception till now.

“Raising Arizona (1987)” was more of a comedy, unlike their debut feature. The scene as revealed in the title is Arizona. The movie engrosses us with the very archetypal direction of the Coens. It was a surprise for the brothers to follow their serious tone in “Blood Simple”, with a comedy. Sooner, it became a trend for them to mark the release of a grim themed movie followed by a comedy.

Following “Raising Arizona”, the Hollywood filmdom saw the release of Coen’s classy “Miller’s Crossing (1990)”. The film is much more full-grown than both their preceding works. Set as a period piece, the intriguingly lit tone of the movie adds up to the towering tension all along the movie. It also became characteristic of Coens, to dig out a prevailing performance from their ensemble cast. There is an unhurried build up of the tension, sculpted scene over scene. “Miller’s crossing” was a thorough piece of directorial excellence.

“Barton Fink (1991)”, followed the double crossing drama. Featuring, an immense performance by John Turturro and John Goodman, the movie deals with the dreams and nightmarish actuality of the playwright. The Coen’s care for the script and the scrupulous consideration to their characters can be very well seen in “Barton Fink”. While the first half of the film revolves more around the playwright’s difficulty with writing, the latter is around the ghastly disclosure of the truth on his buddy. Every shot has an overcast undertone and the closing frame reveals an artistic legitimacy.

“The Hudsucker Proxy (1994)”is perhaps the most criticized movie of the brothers. “The Hudsucker Proxy” is a comedy about a chap in search of job, who gets a work and fortunately/unfortunately gets into mess after the demise of his boss, Hudsucker. It was well made, but was also relatively an exception to the fashion of the brother’s films. Even when it is a memorable movie, it was slightly a plain sailing effort from the perfecto direction of the brothers.

And then it is “Fargo (1996)”. The movie features Coens at their superlative effort of gifted script writing. Coens are so versatile with the film noirs. The movie grips you by neck and never leaves you till the finish. Yet again the darker face of the human nature is the area under discussion. Unquestionably one of the very finest works of Coen, Fargo has staggering performance by Frances McDormand. There is a lot of blood as in roughly any the wicked sibling’s works. It is such a straightforward story, intensely narrated. If somebody can do it this well, it’s only the brilliant Coens. Riveting!

“The Big Lebowski (1998)” is another comedy classic by the duo. It replenishes the viewers with its attitude. The protagonist “The Dude” itself is clearly defined and vivid enough for the audience to feel the movie. The surreal sequences featured are one of the Coen’s coolest creations. Centering on the misapprehension and the consequences, the expressionist facade of the movie, quite literally bring to the fore, Coen’s funny side ideas.

“O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)” is probably the beautifully cinematographed and toned movie of the Coens. The coalition of the murky area of the personality to the comical views of Coen-world is brought to us precisely. There is poignant music and so much to gaze at and experience, in this predominantly unique period comedy. The ensemble did a great job. Coens are also branded for the hiring a few actors continually and it has become a trademark as well.

“The Man who wasn’t there (2001)” is photographed entirely in Black and White. Billy Bob Thronton plays the laconic barber in this noteworthy crime drama. It evidently portrays the unexciting routine life of the barber and his will to get out of that kind of existence. The movie has so much satire in it. The hilarity is obscured inside the observant happenings that have a lot of twists and sheer authenticity. As all other movies, “The Man who wasn’t there” is nothing short of the slow and focused narrative.

“Intolerable Cruelty (2003)” starring George Clooney and Catherine Zeta Jones, is again a very funny film. It is the tale of a Los Angeles divorce attorney, who messes his near great life, after meeting a woman. It’s not the greatest of Coen’s comedies but surely does make you sit right through the movie and offers plenty of fun and for a change it’s not very dark, but is there a Coen brother’s movie without sinister?

The first remake that the Coens did was “The Lady Killers (2004)”, from the 1955 movie of the same name. Starring Tom Hanks as the central character, the movie was perfectly derived into a resplendent Coen tasteful slapstick. Darkly funny and delightfully timed, the movie didn’t win every critic kindness. But the movie had the whole lot that we desired to see in a comedy by Coen.

“No Country for Old Men (2007)”, when released became the most analyzed film of the decade. This gleaming, scoreless, dark, riveting, gruesome, uptight movie reflects the top notch directional skills of the duo brothers. The faithful adaptation of McCarthy’s novel, exceeds the prospect and bestows the audience, three stories interweaved in a fashion that it makes the spine chill. The film is filled with moments, where, we wouldn’t able to have power over our awe for the Coens. Easily, it is one of the (or the) best of the Coen Brothers. As one of the character says “Don't put it in your pocket, sir. Don't put it in your pocket. It's your lucky quarter. “, it was Coen’s lucky quarter. The wide-angle shots, the slow build of the tension enumerates the malevolence in human nature. A Masterpiece!

Burn after Reading (2008)” is one of the darkest comedies, which the Coens ever did. You can call this a Coen special. The movie lives on satire. With exceptional cast performances, the movie triggers specialty laughs and surprises ever now and then. There is nil to question about the direction. It is Coen brother’s. Their mastery over the art, made the script look like a piece of cake for them.

“A Serious Man (2009)” was more of a personal film to the Coens. It was all about the Jews and being good. The opening scene (the prologue) was iconic. The movie subtle touch on the heart of the every individual just proves the versatile nature of the Coen’s works. “.A Serious Man” works on various levels. The climax proves to be one of the very different and superior movie making. You can see the fully matured Coens at work.

"True Grit (2010)" is the first real western , the Coens made. Although the movie doesn't sufficiently wear the Coenistic eccentricity, it does have their wacky humour and silent interludes; And of course, a pitch perfect direction. Boasting superb performance from the artistes, "True Grit" is Coen's revamping of the classic western feeling and how good it can be.

Joel and Ethan Coen’s approach and style towards the film making makes them the auteur of the art. Loaded with highly effective screenplay and pitch perfect direction with the dark, sinister, baleful style of movies, they are nothing that you cannot rave about. We are just waiting for their next "Inside Llewyn Davis".We wouldn’t doubt their ability.

Best: Fargo, No Country for Old Men, Miller’s Crossing, Barton Fink, A Serious Man, The Big Lebowski

Must Watch: No Country for Old Men


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