05 March 2006

Coen (2000-2001)

2000 - O Brother, Where Art Thou? - The Bros. tackle 1937. A feast for eye and ear, and funny as hell to boot. Perhaps second to Carnivàle, this is my favorite depiction of Depression-era America. Though not from the South, I can see stories my grandparents used to tell me about that time in this film.

I meant to re-read The Odyssey before watching this film, but didn't get around to it. I do think translating stories from classic literature into more familiar settings is an excellent way to keep these tales vital in our society. The only reason I've already read The Odyssey was because I happened to get into honors English in college. Then again, I am also a fan of Tromeo & Juliet.

2001 - The Man Who Wasn't There - The Bros. tackle 1949. I loved Billy Bob Thornton as Ed Crane. As an introvert myself, I understand Crane. I know why he silently observes the world and only speaks when he really has something worth saying; I understand how he just lets life happen to him. Other people complain about the pacing of the film, but I enjoyed Thornton's character so much that I didn't notice. The hyper-noir cinematography -- it's hardly necessary to mention -- is breathtakingly beautiful. I found the setting of a suburb, rather than a dark metropolis, for this noir film a classic Coen touch and amusing in its own right. Outside of the setting and the main character (and three UFO references), the adultery-murder-chain-smoking-wrong-man plot was standard for the genre. The suicide of Crane's wife bordered on melodrama, but Ed Crane's non-reaction helped to avoid that. Not as easy to like as Raising Arizona or Fargo, but an interesting film from the Bros.