Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Blood Simple - mini-review

I figured that I needed to do some catching up with the Coen brothers, what with their big Oscar wins for No Country for Old Men (which, no, I haven't seen yet). Mr. Mouse and I like the Coens' stuff a lot. I've seen Barton Fink, The Hudsucker Proxy, Fargo (one of our all-time favorites), The Big Lebowski and O Brother Where Art Thou; Mr. M can add Raising Arizona to that list. I know I still have some to see, but Blood Simple was what came up next in my DVD queue.

Set in Texas, Dan Hedaya plays a disgusting bar owner who discovers his wife (a babyfaced Frances McDormand) is cheating on him with one of his bartenders. He hires a total sleazebag PI (M. Emmet Walsh) to kill the cuckolding pair for $10,000. The PI fakes the murders and kills the husband instead, taking the money. Things only get more complicated when the bartender thinks the wife killed her husband and he tries to cover for her. At about two-thirds of the way through the movie I asked Mr. Mouse if he thought this would be the sort of film where everyone dies at the end. It comes close!

This 1984 movie was the Coens' first commercial film and seems to have set the stage for their ever more impressive career. It is jam-packed full of plot, as all their movies seems to be, and is rife with arty shots: slowly revolving ceiling fans, blood dripping from a dead man's fingers, shattered glass sparkling like diamonds. The story moves slowly, however, and some of the actors are not quite dynamic enough to carry the momentum through the pokey parts. My friend Paula L. gave me a copy of Leonard Maltin's 2007 Movie Guide, a behemoth of a book with over 17,000 films. He calls Blood Simple a "flamboyant homage to film noir made on a shoestring budget ... 'just a bit cold around the heart,'..." I would have to agree 100% with Mr. Maltin.

Now that I've finally seen the Coens' first film, I'm anxious to keep moving through what's left in their catalog that I haven't seen. A great lost weekend would be to watch 'em all, in chronological order to see how the brothers have matured - developed what works, thrown aside what doesn't.

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