The Complete Collection: The Coen Brothers (Part 1)

“It’s a funny thing because you look at the careers of other filmmakers, and you see them sort of slow down, and you realize, maybe this becomes harder to do as you get older. That’s sort of a cautionary thing. I hope it doesn’t happen to me.” – Joel Coen

There is a website that has a section devoted to entire back-catalogues of directors – the title? ‘Now I’ve Seen Everything’. This is now going to begin on this site, titled: The Big Tamale.

The main priority is for me to textulise (the typed version of verbalise) my thoughts on the career of the directors and how they have managed to make such good films – and the porkers amongtst these films too.

Born in the fifties, and in their early-fifties, the two were born in Minnesota. On the vast majority of their films, Joel is credited as director whilst Ethan as producer – both taking credit for the screenplay. Fact is, on the whole, they do everything together.

Joel originally worked as a production assistant on music videos and industrial videos but then, I guess, made a fair few contacts through good ol’ Sam Raimi, whereby Joel served as assistant-editor on a feature debut of Raimi’s called The Evil Dead in 1981. But the two of them were in the process of writing something …

Blood Simple (1984)

So, we begin the year of my birth and the Coen’s cast, amongst others, Frances McDormand to play a role in Blood Simple. Frances would go on to marry Joel and that same year and she became a regular face in the Coen’s films. Blood Simple set the stage for the Coen’s – including many facets that became a staple of their filmmaking style and career. Blood Simple brings together a simple story set in Texas about infidelity and murder. Influenced by genre cinema – namely Film Noir and, to some extent, Horror. Cinematographer Barry Sonnenfeld even worked on the film – to go on to direct featurs such a Get Shorty and Men in Black. Even the awkward murder-gone-wrong, a huge centre-point to the story, is something that became a recurring theme – though clearly inspired by Hitchcock, whereby it was always a nightmare to dispose of bodies and even commit the murder itself in classics such as Rope and Frenzy. Following this, the Coen’s got their stripes as the film recieved positive reveiws on the whole setting the stage for a [slightly] bigger film with a better known leading man…

Raising Arizona (1987)

Welcome Nic Cage. Only a few years after Fast Times at Ridgmont High, The Outsiders, Rumble Fish and The Cotton Club, Nicholas Cage was a big catch. Carter Burwell, again, provided the score and music continuing a relationship with Burwell and music that would continue straight through their career. John Goodman was on the cast additionally and, unlike Blood Simple, this film was much more comedic in its tone – with eccentric characters all round (a crazy biker plucked from a surreal imagination) and a story that simple meanders through the lazy lifestyle of Nic Cage’s McDonnough as McDonnough simply ‘steals’ a baby with his mental ex-cop played by Holly Hunter. apparently there was tension on set with Cage, but – in my opinion – this is where the Coen’s really began. The extreme accents and ridiculous antagonist in McDonnough really keeps this film ‘right up there’ as one of the Coen’s best – whilst Blood Simple seems to remains quite small-scale and therefore could never practically cover the scope of the Coen’s true vision. then again, Danny Boyle rate the film exceptionally high, stating how the early films reveal the true style of a director… whether or not they have found their feet I guess.

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