Third Eye Film Society Forum Index
Author Message

<  Third Eye Film Forums  ~  The Coen Brothers: A Specialty Forum

gromit
Posted: Tue May 18, 2010 11:25 am Reply with quote
Joined: 31 Aug 2004 Posts: 8739 Location: Shanghai
This is getting hopeless.
No they are not the same person, yes the films are different, and the characters have variations.
But it's the same basic character in the same basic predicament.

My point was that Llewelyn Moss is basically a reworking of the Ray role/character.

_________________
Killing your enemies, if it's done badly, increases their number.
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
bartist
Posted: Tue May 18, 2010 11:36 am Reply with quote
Joined: 27 Apr 2010 Posts: 6589
I think you two are talking about different things. I took Gromit to mean similar in the structural sense that both men are drawn into a crazy goatfuck and are steering blind. I take Whisky to be making a distinction in personalities, in how they respond to events. And Moss is definitely more active and purposeful.

I'll have to wait a couple days to get ahold of NCFOM and really get caught up.
View user's profile Send private message
whiskeypriest
Posted: Tue May 18, 2010 12:31 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 20 May 2004 Posts: 6916 Location: "It's a Dry Heat."
Well, you might as well say they are both similar to Roger Thornhill and the movies are bleaker versions of North by Northwest. You are taking things out to a distant, meaningless level of generecism.

_________________
I ask you, Velvel, as a rational man, which of us is possessed?
View user's profile Send private message
gromit
Posted: Tue May 18, 2010 1:33 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 31 Aug 2004 Posts: 8739 Location: Shanghai
While you might disagree with my linkage, the way you've gone about it -- pretending that they might be the same exact character or similar to Cary Grant -- is rather unhelpful, inane and obtuse.

Unlike Thornhill, both of these Coen characters seem rather adrift, take a gamble on actively committing a wrong, think they are macho and clever enough to survive, and pay the price for their errors.

Along with their function in the plot, there seems a good deal of similarity between the class, dress, and laconic nature of Ray and Llewelyn.
It's not unusual for writers and directors to use the same type of characters in various projects. I thought it was interesting that 20 years later, the Coens made another film based partly around a reworking of a character from their first film.

Good luck with the rest of the No Country discussion.

_________________
Killing your enemies, if it's done badly, increases their number.
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
whiskeypriest
Posted: Tue May 18, 2010 2:09 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 20 May 2004 Posts: 6916 Location: "It's a Dry Heat."
Well, I already told you why I did not think they were all that similar in character, except for the fact that they were both laconic Texas types. I just think you are generalizing out too far on their characters. The everyman all caught up in it aspect is not specific to the Coens characters, it is more a stock situation. And I'd take issue with a couple of the characteristics you think they share, notably "think they are macho and clever enough to survive" which I don't think describes Ray at all. I don't think he operates under any illusion regarding his capabilities; he does not do what he does because he thinks he can get away with it, he does it because he feels he has to in order to protect Abby.

_________________
I ask you, Velvel, as a rational man, which of us is possessed?
View user's profile Send private message
whiskeypriest
Posted: Tue May 18, 2010 2:27 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 20 May 2004 Posts: 6916 Location: "It's a Dry Heat."
Part Three: ACTING!

I was, for reasons of mine own, cruising youtube, looking for a clip of Clark Gable looking up at Vivien Leigh like he knew what she looked like without her shimmy when I ran across a video showing Paulette Goddard’s screen test for Scarlet O’Hara. And it occurred to me, no actor is every really born for a part; even when we afterwards think, I cannot imagine any other person in that part, there was clearly a time, much, much earlier, when different actors were imagined for the part. Javier Bardem, James Brolin, Kelly MacDonald, even Tommy Lee Jones – who if not born to the part has lived his way to it - were not inevitable choices for their roles.

I’m not sure Tommy Lee Jones was even acting: he’s probably like that in real life. Alright, no, he is Yale educated and probably knows Torbert better than he lets on. He may even, unlike me, know who Torbert is/was. Anyway, he has the world-weary, experienced, sad eyed tiredness bit down pretty pat by now. Despite it not being much of a stretch, he strikes the right notes throughout. The Coens, in their DVD extras, talk about how important it was to them to have the regional aspect of the movie down pat – and this is a movie that is specifically in and of a region – and Jones certainly brings this. But Bell, though wanting no part of the investigation into the Colossal Goat Fuck, is a smart and alert policeman: he notices the crucial bits of evidence before Wendell does – granted Wendell is callow – and he correctly understands, near the end, that Chigurh is precisely the type of person walk back into a crime scene, and that he would do it again. Jones brings a native intelligence to the role, along with the precise regional accent and a look.

Bardem’s Chirugh is such a memorable character, and his affect on the audience depends so much on what we do not see: we get just enough of his procedure to understand he is really really good at what he does, and then he starts appearing, almost ghostlike (per Bell’s comment) at the right time and place. We begin to get a sense of him as an eerie figure, supernatural even though we know if we cut him he bleeds. Chigurh has a controlled, rational irrationality, if that makes sense: his character acts on an hermetic logic that does not reference the logic of the world.

I was intrigued in my most recent viewing, watching his eyes, hollow and red-rimmed, as if sleep was an alien concept. He also has sort of yellowish tint to his skin, which coupled with the indeterminate accent and slightly off clothing sense – and hair – gives him an alien, not quite of this world appearance.

As I mentioned way back on page 1 of this topic, I am always impressed and amused by some of the minor parts in their movies. While Beth Grant’s Agnes works much better on the phone (in the background when Moss calls Carla Jean) than in person, three other smaller parts, all just in one scene, really leap out at me: Gene Jones as the Gas Station operator, Kathy Lamkin as the manager of the Desert Aire, and Barry Corbin as Uncle Ellis. None are on the screen for long, but all make indelible characters in their brief time.

Josh Brolin and Kelly MacDonald, as Llewellyn and Carla Jean Moss, are also good. The Coens have said that it was important to get the regionalisms right, so they undoubtedly cast Brolin and MacDonald for that reason – though for some odd reason, in the DVD bonus stuff, MacDonald adopts this weird pseudo-Scottish accent. I assume one of the Coens’s little jokes, like Fargo being a true story, or the Forever Young intros.

Part Four: Technique

Rewatching No Country so soon after Blood Simple., the ways in which their movie making has remained constant struck me – struck me because it is such a compliment to Blood Simple. that the techniques they used in that movie can remain and remain fresh in a movie made 23 years later. Blood Simple. is such a well-thought out, well constructed, passionate and expertly crafted first work that it can stand up next to a movie that some reviewer – Tony Scott, perhaps – called, above all else, a ruthless application of craft.

We have the same expert sound (and the same sound editor) that enhances the mood in subtle ways – I mentioned the sound of the bus’s air breaks at the end of the No Int-furmashun scene way back on page one. But listen for the sound of the wind in No Country, and the way it adds to the tension of the Gas Station scene, the sound of the unwrapping nut package, and the way the music rises almost indistinguishably from that wind. Listen closely to the far away sound of a train during the first, most brutal, of Chigurh’s murders. The sound of the footsteps and the faint squeak squeak squeak of the light bulb being unscrewed when Chigurh closes in on Moss at the Eagle Hotel. The Coens’ movies have always sounded better than other movies, because they understand and pay attention to the way sound contributes to the experience of seeing a movie.

One of the reasons Coen movies always sound so good is almost missing from No Country – Carter Burwell has scored maybe ten minutes of music in the film, and almost all of it as quiet and subliminal as the wind bowls in the Gas Station scene. But the choice to do away with a traditional notion of score, I think, makes the movie much more effective than a score that tells us when to feel tense, when to be scared. For most of the movie, the tension is so palpable that the additional music cues would add nothing. The lack of the score lets the sound design leap out: we experience the sounds of footsteps, the sound of a gun and an air gun (not, of course, how those weapons do sound, but how they should sound).

The cinematographer has changed, of course, Barry Sonnenfeld having moved on to directing and being replaced, since Fink, by Roger Deakins. As I noted earlier, the opening shots from Deakins are similar to Sonnenfeld’s: static shots of the harsh, barren, vacant Texas landscapes. Deakins’s seem deeper, less flat than Sonnenfeld’s, and man’s intrusion in the landscape is also kept further at bay; empty ground until a windmill, and then a fence, as the camera tracks along it to Chigurh’s arrest. The entire movie tends to play out almost as empty as that landscape; the shoot out at Eagle Pass, for instance, takes place in a public place with cars along the side of the road, but no people at all, for instance. Chigurh’s car crash takes place on a suburban street, yet no one comes out to take a look at it save for two boys on bikes.

(An aside: even the Coens feel the need to abide by some traditional rules of Hollywood construction: 1. Police response time is always – always – a function of the plot and not reality. Thus, we hear the sirens in the distance after Chigurh’s crash, but he manages to get away before the police come. The shootout is in a downtown area – granted, downtown Eagle Pass, but still – and the police never arrive. 2. Any chase is designed to reflect what looks best and creates the best visual for the movie’s plot. It should therefore not surprise us that Moss is able to outrun a speeding truck (not to mention a swimming dog!) even though that truck is more or less right behind him for a pretty fair distance. More or less, because as with all chases, different angles show Moss and the truck at different distances. It’s all about the visuals.)

There is a good deal of parallel dialogue and scenes at play here, as well, though I assume some of it is due to Cormac McCarthy: Chigurh tells some poor unlucky schlub to “hold still”; the next scene is of Moss, poaching pronghorns, telling one of them to hold still. Chigurh sits on the Moss’s couch, drinking milk; Bell does the same later. Of special interest to me, given Parts One and Two above: Lamar’s Deputy’s last words are “I got it under control,” just as Chigurh slips the handcuffs over his neck and brutally strangles him – technically, I guess, he doesn’t strangle him, he ruptures his internal carotid artery. Moss thinks he has it under control as well, and tells Carla Jean much the same thing. And while he manages to stay a step ahead of Chigurh, well, there’s always the unexpected, isn’t there.

A few more random things I want to point to before moving on to story structure, which to me is the real beauty of this movie. First, rewatching it recently I remain awed by everything in the Gas Station scene, one of the four or five best scenes of the last decade. Everything about it, from the set decoration, to the sound, to the dialogue, and the acting. I love watching Gene Jones in this scene, the way he slowly realizes his bored pleasantry, far from making a human connection, has put him in serious risk. You can see it start in his eyes when he first looks up; you can see a few hopeful glimmers, when he thinks he might be able to side step his way out. And Bardem acts it so brilliantly too. What a great scene.

Another great scene, which sort of takes us back to Blood Simple., comes when Moss takes water back to the Colossal Goat Fuck in the desert. There’s a storm in the background sound, and we see Moss’s truck behind him, silhouetted in blue against the darkness. And suddenly, we see – and hear – a second truck, an “Oh fuck” moment if there ever was one. It’s not only well done from a tension standpoint, it’s beautiful. And – my reservations about the whole truck/human relationship limned above aside – the ensuing chase is exciting, especially at the end – and especially in a theater – with that swimming dog.

Anyway, last point: there are a lot of shots of feet in the movie. For a long while I liked to joke that the feet were an homage to Robert Bresson – as the old joke about him goes, he was planning a movie about Noah’s Ark and had the property master round up dozens and dozens of different pairs of animals, only to tell him, “Mind you, I’m only going to show their feet” – which worked as a joke until I got the DVD and found as an extra “Diary of a Country Sheriff,” which suddenly made my little pleasantry seem plausible. Roger Ebert, at least, took it slightly seriously. I’m just having an awful time figuring out a connection. Stylistically, it is hard to find much in common, except the feet, and Bresson was a highly Catholic film maker, which is not something I think of when I think of Coens.

Anyway.

More to follow shortly.

_________________
I ask you, Velvel, as a rational man, which of us is possessed?
View user's profile Send private message
ehle64
Posted: Tue May 18, 2010 3:58 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 20 May 2004 Posts: 7149 Location: NYC; US&A
Just as an aside and *ahem* a booster for this forum from WAY back -- it's both a plus and a negative to have someone moderating the forum who is obviously so close to the subject matter. The insight and work and vibe is already there, but they can tend to tell people they are "wrong". If you just try and catch yourself with that respect, I think it's all good.

I'm just going from experience -- the Fellini forum -- I wasn't even the moderator but kept count of the Uh Uhs instead of the wow, hell yeahs! It is what it is, but I heart a good-assed film forum.

_________________
It truly disappoints me when people do something for you via no prompt of your own and then use it as some kind of weapon against you at a later time and place. It is what it is.
View user's profile Send private message AIM Address
whiskeypriest
Posted: Tue May 18, 2010 4:24 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 20 May 2004 Posts: 6916 Location: "It's a Dry Heat."
I'm not saying gromit is wrong. I am disagreeing with him.

_________________
I ask you, Velvel, as a rational man, which of us is possessed?
View user's profile Send private message
ehle64
Posted: Tue May 18, 2010 4:47 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 20 May 2004 Posts: 7149 Location: NYC; US&A
well, uhm, exactly?

_________________
It truly disappoints me when people do something for you via no prompt of your own and then use it as some kind of weapon against you at a later time and place. It is what it is.
View user's profile Send private message AIM Address
whiskeypriest
Posted: Tue May 18, 2010 4:52 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 20 May 2004 Posts: 6916 Location: "It's a Dry Heat."
billyweeds wrote:
I liked No Country but am rather miffed that it's the Coen Brothers movie that won Best Picture. That shoulda been Fargo. No Country is far from the brothers' best.
Obviously I think rather more highly of No Country than you do, but I will agree with you thus far: Fargo should have won the Oscar also - there is no rule that the Coens only get one, you know. I think Fargo is the best American movie since at least Raging Bull, and I like it better than Raging Bull.

_________________
I ask you, Velvel, as a rational man, which of us is possessed?
View user's profile Send private message
whiskeypriest
Posted: Tue May 18, 2010 4:53 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 20 May 2004 Posts: 6916 Location: "It's a Dry Heat."
billyweeds wrote:
You can hear my voice in Hudsucker as one of the annoying voices screaming at Tim Robbins as he is introduced to the company. My line is something like "Take it up to the fourth floor" or something.
Well, now I have to rewatch Hudsucker even if it means deliberately subjecting myself to Tim Robbins.

_________________
I ask you, Velvel, as a rational man, which of us is possessed?
View user's profile Send private message
whiskeypriest
Posted: Tue May 18, 2010 4:56 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 20 May 2004 Posts: 6916 Location: "It's a Dry Heat."
ehle64 wrote:
well, uhm, exactly?
It's difference of opinion that makes horse races. It was not my intent to squash or quash gromit, but to explain why I disagreed, and hoped to get his response and position articulated more clearly, and I am sorry if it came out otherwise.

_________________
I ask you, Velvel, as a rational man, which of us is possessed?
View user's profile Send private message
marantzo
Posted: Tue May 18, 2010 5:31 pm Reply with quote
Guest
Haven't read your last intricate post on No Country yet, but I will. I'm a slow reader. The kind that Mailer liked.

I wish I had found Blood Simple. here, to watch again and No Country, so I could have chimed in on the discussion. Never knew where the title of No Country came from. Thanks whiskey. Interesting.

Mirgun, the scene in The Big Lebowski where Jesus (the child molester[bowler]) is haranguing the Lebowski team in the bowling alley is one of the funniest bits I've ever seen. And his flashy (blue?) jump suit was the cherry on the top. Another movie I have to see again. The clueless nihilists are just another of the Coen Bros'. hilarious portraits. I think South Park got a lot from the brothers Coen.
whiskeypriest
Posted: Tue May 18, 2010 6:15 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 20 May 2004 Posts: 6916 Location: "It's a Dry Heat."
marantzo wrote:
Haven't read your last intricate post on No Country yet, but I will. I'm a slow reader. The kind that Mailer liked.

I wish I had found Blood Simple. here, to watch again and No Country, so I could have chimed in on the discussion. Never knew where the title of No Country came from. Thanks whiskey. Interesting.

Mirgun, the scene in The Big Lebowski where Jesus (the child molester[bowler]) is haranguing the Lebowski team in the bowling alley is one of the funniest bits I've ever seen. And his flashy (blue?) jump suit was the cherry on the top. Another movie I have to see again. The clueless nihilists are just another of the Coen Bros'. hilarious portraits. I think South Park got a lot from the brothers Coen.
I always liked the look on Jesus' face when he knocks on the door to tell his neighbor he is a sex offender. You HEAR about laws requiring people to do that, but you never really think of the mechanics of people doing it.

_________________
I ask you, Velvel, as a rational man, which of us is possessed?
View user's profile Send private message
bartist
Posted: Tue May 18, 2010 6:25 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 27 Apr 2010 Posts: 6589
...they were both laconic Texas types....

Whisky, your longish posting there makes me feel like a laconic type. I know this is just wrong, that you've opened up whole vistas of discussion, but at the moment I feel like you've used up all the oxygen in the room.

Smile

I liked your description of Chigurh, in terms of how his physical appearance and wardrobe quirks give us the sense of an otherworldly being....more reptilian perhaps than human. At the outset, I thought there was something a tad comic bookish about him going around killing with a pneumatic bolt gun, but his demeanor eventually kind of sold it to me.
View user's profile Send private message

Display posts from previous:  

All times are GMT - 5 Hours
Page 13 of 38
Goto page Previous  1, 2, 3 ... 12, 13, 14 ... 36, 37, 38  Next
Post new topic

Jump to:  

You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum