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26 December 2010


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Merry Christmas, Col. Lang.

It's nice to see you like the Coen Brothers' films.

Fargo was always my favorite, followed by Miller's Crossing. A Serious Man is also terrific: it brands even a goy like me with a dark vision of what it meant to be a Jew, in 1960s middle, middle-class America. Great stuff.

I agree not all their fills are great. I'll be more churlish than you and call out Barton Fink in particular.

I saw True Grit the other day and feel it is perhaps their greatest film. I say this precisely because they wisely chose not to put an obvious "Coen Brothers' stamp" on it, in the same way that Jeff Bridges did not channel John Wayne in playing Rooster Cogburn. While it may be true that "the oeuvre of the Coen Brothers should be judged on the basis of textual material of their own devising," the genius of True Grit is that they were faithful to the original work.

I can't remember the last time a "Western" moved me so, or left me with such a feeling of melancholy when it came to an untidy but true-to-life end.

Larry Kart

Saw TRUE GRIT yesterday. Very good — a virtually flawless pastiche, and “pastiche” might not be fair. The use of the novel’s rather studied diction (so I’m told, haven’t read the book myself) was a fine idea; the dialogue doesn’t come across as arch at all IMO, nor do the actors deliver it that way; it just fits.

About the pastiche feeling, seems to me that there are some definite but unobtrusive echoes of “The Night of the Hunter” — Mattie is a character who is soberly and shrewdly living out, or living inside, a righteous fable, and you’d better not get between her and her goal because she’s wearing chain-mail underwear. Also, in emotional terms, she’s essentially a person who is exasperated at the foolishness and weakness of the world and the people around her (this is what gives her much of her power). Also she is at once keyed up and somewhat saddened by the fact that at age 14 she’s not only the most grown-up person in her family (probably including her late father) but also, probably, the only grown-up person she’s ever going to meet. In effect, as the epilogue suggests, Mattie was an orphan from the moment she saw what the world was like, and she wouldn’t have had it any other way. She even tells Jesse James to go —- himself.

Mattie reminds me of Lillian Gish’s character in THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (and Frances McDormand’s in “FARGO” for that matter); the girl who plays her is excellent. I can see that some might think that Bridges is playing a character he’s played many times before, but it worked for me. Matt Damon is quite good too.

About what all this says about the Coens, I’m still thinking, just as I’m still thinking about how much of a pastiche their TRUE GRIT is.

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