Remember when “Blood Simple” rocked the film world? Where everyone stood up and took notice? Well, I guess not. No one noticed, hardly no one. “Jaws” was noticed by everyone. “Star Wars” rocked the galaxy. Hell, from now one the first question to ask when you find yourself on a strange planet to a being you encounter to test whether they are a human from Earth is to ask “Did you ever see ‘Star Wars’?” These movies made, no, forced people, all people, to take notice. “Blood Simple” did not, although should have.
Then there was “Fargo”. Remember “Fargo?” Few people will know these films were directed by the same siblings, the Coens Brothers, but more people will remember “Fargo”. “Fargo” won an Academy Award, rightfully so, sustaining the weight and prestige of this superficial honor. “Fargo” was a brilliant film. It is impossible to make a film better than “Fargo”. You can have different characters in a different film acting out a different story, and it will be a different film, but never better. “Fargo” was a perfectly sutured, scar free cinematic experience that will stand the test of all time. It will forever be important, and impactful, and meaningful even in a galaxy far, far away.
Why are these two films on my mind you ask? Well, I have just returned from “No Country For Old men’…. oh my god… I love film. What a beautifully crafted gem. After the ending credits started to roll on “Raising Arizona” a friend turned to me and said, “The Coen’s know to tell a story.” They sure as hell do. Watching the utterly flat landscape of Western Texas pass before my eyes, instantly and utterly absorbed in the plight and motivations of each and every character in the film and watching a bloodthirsty pit bull chase his prey down a raging river, I found myself thinking of the night I saw “Fargo” for the first time. The dog’s head was just barely above the raging whitewater of the rapids and unless you knew better you’d think this a terrifying scene but I was choking back my laughter. I could not contain myself.
I was immediately transported to the night over a decade ago when, among the pitch white scenes of North Dakota , I saw a kidnapped wife, her head covered in a black sack, flee from a car and run pell-mell across a winter landscape. This was not a funny scene, but then again, of course it was. I laughed, laughed out loud. My friend who sat next to me, not getting it at all, looked at me with this “What is wrong with you look”, but I could not help myself. Best yet, still in my fit of hysterics – for it was goddamn funny – a woman from behind me a few rows screams out, “You’re sick!”. Oh my god what a great night. In the lobby after “Fargo”, my friend and his friends all shook their heads and began commiserating on a terrible choice of films. I had to speak up and I said, “That was one of the greatest films I have seen in a long time. This may win an Oscar this year.” They did not get it, nor me, and we all left the theater and carried out the rest of our night. Several months later in that year of 1996, “Fargo” won Best Picture. Not that I am a soothsayer or anything, but, well, I was happy about my appreciation of this film before the world could.
This takes me back to “No Country For Old Men”. No one in the theater appreciated this film. I got the sense that the many who came to see this film would have rather gone to see “Beaowolf” or “Bee Movie” or whatever version of “Saw” they are up to now but they came to this film. They came to see this for they sensed something important was happening, but going in, and leaving, they still did not understand what.
The teenagers in front of me got up saying they read that the film was great but the ending sucked so be prepared. “Not prepared enough, I guess”, he said as he exited his row, popcorn bag and soda cup behind him on the floor. Always hoping the older generation would save the day, as I walked out behind an elderly couple in their movie clothes, (can’t describe it but they had their movie going duds on) I heard him mutter, “Good film, I just don’t understand the ending.” I had to say “Hi” and offer my take on the ending which he seemed to accept enthusiastically, even calling me a ‘student of film’. I know I am different from most folks, I know I like and can appreciate film more than your average moviegoer, but student of film is still a bit too much.
Anyway, getting back to the movie. I am a man who seems to find fault, errors and the negative points of view in everything and this case is no different. However, the only thing I can levy against this film is that they remade a combination of “Blood Simple” and “Fargo”. This is not a bag thing mind you, for it shows you these two elemental filmmakers know how to make a film, but its almost as if they fell back on comfortable ground and then proceed from there. The results are still unbelievable and regardless of how or why they made this, this is indeed a great film. It does not get better than this. Different actors will play different parts in different stories filmed by different directors, but no one makes a better film than the Coen’s and this one is one of their best.
As far as them not climbing higher and perhaps falling back into a comfortable and well trodden groove, well, this is not a bad thing because for the Coen’s, falling back sets them to rest still light years from most and their meekest endeavor shines far brighter than the light from other “stars” making films today.