I’m not sure why I love the Cohen brothers so much, but I do. Their movies focus on a wide range of themes, the films range from the brutal (No Country for Old Men), the macabre/funny (Fargo), to the thoughtful ‘comedy’ (O Brother Where Art Thou) or off-beat (Burn after Reading) – and see, I didn’t even mention ‘The Big Lebowski!’.
I remember when I heard they were to do a new version of ’True Grit’ I thought, O dear… But what a brilliant movie. No longer is Rooster Cogburn the one man hero, literraly John Wayne style. Now we have a much more nuanced and real story, Matt Damon a revelation as the Texas Ranger. Jeff Bridges (always amazing in Cohen Bros movies) is a much darker figure. The real hero is Mattie Ross, the young girl – and her voice shines through – like your reading the book with the Cohen brothers helping you colour in some of the pages.
But, whatever they do, they bring something of beauty, something of what it means to be human. Without holywoodisation. Reality is often painful, sometimes brutal. And yet there is joy. There is life. We can identify with these people. We are drawn in.
In their movies, they paint real people. Often edgy, frail. Caught up in their own ‘world’ yet desperate to be loved and appreciated, not knowing quite how. People make mistakes. People get in their own way. People screw up. People offer surprising acts of generosity. People are incredibly self consumed. You have the single minded driven, and those who just drift. You have the desperate ones, and the genuinely loving. There is sadness, there is joy. You cannot escape reality in the Cohen Brothers world. There are no happy endings, in fact there are often no endings. Life goes on.
The last lines of Burn After reading has two CIA agents reviewing ‘the learning’ (censored language, sorry!)
CIA Superior: What did we learn, Palmer?
CIA Officer: I don’t know, sir.
CIA Superior: I don’t %*&$$’ know either. I guess we learned not to do it again.
CIA Officer: Yes, sir.
CIA Superior: I’m @$%&% if I know what we did.
CIA Officer: Yes, sir, it’s, uh, hard to say
CIA Superior: @&% %$@%& !@$@&%$.
As the ex WW1 tank commander and famous Psychoanalyst Wilfred Bion once said ‘Life is full of surprises, most of them unplesant’
So, what about ‘Inside Llewyn Davis?’ It is a beautiful movie. A story of the creative drive, of what it means to be human.
It’s kind of an enima to an overly optimistic ‘all you need to do is focus on your dreams and it will happen’ mindset. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that it is important to find out what I’m good at, what kind of contribution I want to make – but life is not so simple as the evangelical positive thinkers would preach. it’s a if this has become the new secular religion. And it’s better than calvanism eh? You don’t have to feel bad about yourself with that old fashioned religion, just believe in yourself! Now I’m going off piste … need to write about this in another setting for goodness sake, this is a movie review!
Where was I… O, yes, the movie. On one level it’s a story about a struggling musician seeking to be true to his art. He is penniless and laves a trail of fractured relationships as he couch surfs around New York in the early 1960’s. This is a magical time for folk music – Dylan is about to appear, these are exciting times. Yet the Cohen Bros choose to focus on a failing and struggling musician. One who doesn’t quite make it. His big break is playing session for a song he hates, and even then signs away his right to royalties because he needs cash.
Justin Timberlake is superb in the movie. That made me realise another reason I love the Cohen Bros, they get ‘stars’ to really act rather than inhabit their own celebrity. Brad Pitt in Burn after reading is the airhead gym instructor. George Clooney sends his celebrity self up in ‘O Bother’ and ‘Intoerable Cruelty’
Llwyen experiences rejection. He has to face himself. He has to face the reality of his life not ‘working’ but even his attempts to ‘fix’ are doomed. He ends up full circle. It’s all about the music – the real star of the movie.
I know why I love the Cohen brothers. They are master storytellers. Don’t miss it, and see it at the DCA – ‘the sitting room of the City’ – you can take your drink in with you, relax and enjoy.