The opening shot of THE MAN WHO WASN’T THERE (2001), the Coen brothers’ homage to classical Hollywood film noir, depicts two black and white lines swirling side by side up toward some unseen destination. The image is hypnotic and abstract, more reminiscent of visuals found in an old sci-fi movie than a gritty film noir. But then the opening credits end, and the camera pulls back to reveal that what we have been looking at is no more than a traditional barber pole. Soon after this shot we are greeted by the familiar conventions and iconography of classical Hollywood noir: cops, criminals, and endless billows of cigarette smoke, all framed by moody black and white cinematography. And yet, the impact of that opening visual still lingers in our memory. The echoes of sci-fi influence are understandable; for THE MAN WHO WASN’T THERE is not just a well-crafted neo-noir, but also a movie about an alien stranded among humans.
Tag: Coen Brothers
Raising Arizona — 1987 — dir. Joel and Ethan Coen
The Coen brothers are known for their quirky storylines and even more offbeat characters. From slacker bowlers to crazy playwrights, they always keep their dedicated fans guessing. Although their stories and senses of humor don’t appeal to everyone, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone whose interest wasn’t at least piqued by the idea of Nicolas Cage and Holly Hunter kidnapping a baby from the family of a local unpainted furniture giant to raise as their own.
No Country for Old Men – dir. Joel and Ethan Coen – 2007 – Theatrical Trailer
By KJ Hamilton
Would you risk everything for money? It is more than risking all of your winnings in trade for what’s behind Door Number Two. This is your life in exchange for money. What are you worth? It’s said that every man has his price. For this film, the price is $2 million. Vietnam veteran Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) is an average Joe who served two tours of duty. He’s married and lives in a doublewide mobile home in a trailer park. While hunting deer in the West Texas desert, he came upon the aftermath of a drug deal gone terribly wrong. He finds a truck bed full of heroin and a suitcase with $2 million in it. He decides to keep the money, having absolutely no idea that the countdown to the end of his life just began. Each time he eludes his pursuer, he gets closer to the realization that this is blood money, and the blood is his own.
The Big Lebowski – dir. Joel and Ethan Coen – 1998 – Original Theatrical Trailer
It’s a little ironic that The Dude, Jeff Bridges’ slacker character in the Coen brothers’ 1998 comedy The Big Lebowski, is introduced as “the man for his time and place” (in this case, that time and place is early nineties Los Angeles). I say this partly because critics and audiences routinely peg The Dude as a sixties throwback, a longhaired stoner comfortably out of his time; and partly because The Big Lebowski itself feels like a film out of its time, and even ahead of it. While it’s true that Lebowski harks back to the cinema and pop culture of other eras – from its drawling cowboy narrator out of an old western to its messy Big Sleep-inspired noir plot – and to the Coens’ prior body of work (traces of Raising Arizona abound), it feels like a weirdly prescient piece of filmmaking today.