After Miller’s Crossing I just had to watch another Coen Brothers film, so I chose this one, a film I last saw probably over 20 years ago.
The story, if you have forgotten, is about a successful and intense Broadway writer who reluctantly accepts an offer from a Hollywood studio to write for movies. So, he goes to Hollywood and for his first picture is asked to write a wrestling story, something far below his talents. He tries to give it a go, but knowing nothing about wrestling flicks he gets nowhere.
He stays at a dodgy hotel which has very gooey wallpaper that peels off in the heat, and a neighbour (John Goodman) who talks a lot, but ends up being the only friend Barton has. Also in the story is a famous writer who gets extremely drunk when he has writer’s block, which is where we find him in the film. His assistant/lover tries to help Barton write the wrestling movie, and that is where the story turns very bad for Barton.
The rest of the story is a murder cover-up and serial killer story, that by the end is also quite surreal and confusing.
Reading about this film online reveals that the story is supposedly an allegory for the rise of fascism in Nazi Germany, which is the time period that this film was set in. Film forums have all kinds of theories about what the film is about, and one film review even hypothesised that Charlie (John Goodman) was in fact Barton’s alter ego. I just took most of it at face value…over-thinking does nothing more than killing precious brain cells.
The Coens actually wrote this film while they were taking a break from making Miller’s Crossing because they were having problems with it. This film was written in three weeks with the main role specifically written for John Turturro. The Wikipedia page on this is long and interesting. A lot of thought went into the writing and production of the film, and there were influences galore.
Everything in this was superb, as every Coen Brothers film is. John Turturro and John Goodman were perfect, as were the rest of the cast which included a few Miller’s Crossing actors. I was just thinking what it would have been like if The Cruiser played Barton instead…best not to.
But, I didn’t quite enjoy it as much as Miller’s Crossing, I can’t quite pinpoint why. Maybe it was the effort of trying to figure out the deeper meanings of the story. Barton stared at a painting on the wall of his hotel wall of a woman sitting on a beach several times, a scene that would play out in real life at the end of the film…brain hurts.
Still, this is superbness.
Film count 2018: 81