Close Up

25 - 27 March 2016: Close-Up on the Coen Brothers


Ethan and Joel Coen have built a reputation as some of the most visionary and idiosyncratic filmmakers of the late 20th century. Combining thoughtful eccentricity, wry humour, arch irony, and often brutal violence, the films of the Coen brothers have become synonymous with a style of filmmaking that pays tribute to classic American movie genres – especially film noir – while sustaining a firmly postmodern feel. Beginning with Blood Simple, their brutal, stylish 1984 debut, the brothers have amassed a body of work that has established them as two of the most compelling figures of American cinema.

Blood Simple
Ethan and Joel Coen
1983 | 95 min | Colour | Digital 

In Ethan and Joel Coen's first feature neo-noir film crime thriller, Visser, an unscrupulous private eye hired by Texas bar owner Marty to murder Marty's faithless wife Abby and her paramour, Ray, one of Marty's employees. But Visser is no more up-front with Marty than with anyone else; he makes some slight modifications of the original plan so that it better serves his own best interests. After a surprise double-cross and the murder of one of the important players, matters spiral out of control, and the plot gyrates through a complicated string of darkly humorous events. False assumptions, guilt, and fear all lead to a frantic attempt to conceal evidence and the heart-pounding, irony-filled denouement. read more

Barton Fink
Ethan and Joel Coen
1991 | 116 min | Colour | 35mm

The title character, played by John Turturro, is a Broadway playwright, lured to Hollywood with the promise of untold riches by a boorish studio chieftain. Despising the film capital and everything it stands for, Barton Fink comes down with an acute case of writer's block. He is looked after by a secretary who has been acting as a ghost-writer for an alcoholic screenwriter. Also keeping tabs on Fink is a garrulous travelling salesman, the most likeable, stable character in the picture. And then comes the plot twist to end all plot twists, plunging Barton Fink into a surreal nightmare. Once more, Ethan and Joel Coen serve up a smorgasbord of quirkiness and kinkiness, where nothing is what it seems and nothing turns out as planned. read more

Ethan and Joel Coen
1996 | 94 min | Colour | DCP

Car salesman Jerry Lundegaard hires low-lives Carl and Gaear to kidnap his wife, hoping that her wealthy father will pay a ransom from which Jerry can cream a share. The abduction goes according to plan, but the kidnappers commit three murders as they drive by night through the snowy Minnesota wastes. Police chief Marge Gunderson, a slow-talkin', smart-thinkin', pregnant housewife, investigates. Joel and Ethan Coen's beguiling film is both very funny and, finally, very moving. Performed to perfection by an imaginatively assembled cast, it displays the customary Coen virtues, at the same time providing a robust emotional core unaffected by the taint of mere technical virtuosity. read more

No Country for Old Men
Ethan and Joel Coen
2007 | 122 min | Colour | 35mm

West Texas, 1980. Out hunting deer in the desert down by the Mexican border, Vietnam veteran Llewelyn Moss happens on a heap of carnage: torn-apart trucks, corpses of men and dogs, the bloody bodies of others who’d be better off dead, and a case packed with cash: about $2 million. With no witnesses, and confident he can handle himself, Moss opts to keep what’s clearly payment in a drugs-handover gone wrong, and treat himself and wife Carla Jean to a life considerably better than their trailer-park existence. Trouble is, psychopathic hitman Anton Chigurh also wants the loot, and begins carefully hunting the hunter, in turn pursued by veteran sheriff Ed Tom Bell, who can’t help feeling the world’s turning more crazily violent. Blood Simple meets Fargo, almost. read more