It’s no Llewyn Davis but stronger than Hail, Caesar if we’re tracking the Coen’s work this decade. It’s their 17th archiveable film- unreal. I have no doubt it’ll reward multiple rewatches and at no point in their six-part anthology did I worry I was watching an unarchiveable film or have any doubt that I was in the hands of masters. A solid entry.
An anthology film- six films in one, their longest film to date and first shot on digital
Carter Burwell’s majestic score is a standout—one of Burwell’s best up there with Fargo, Carol, Miller’s Crossings
Meditations on death, fate like all of their works- godlessness and randomness
Opens on a book, table of contents and then the chapter/story break pictures set up formally
Section #1- the John Ford Monument valley opening is beautiful, the narrator (Tim Blake Nelson) here addressing us, breaking the 4th wall, is sort of like Sam Elliott’s character in Big Lebowski but obviously taking an active hand—the young gunslinger with the harmonica (like Charles Bronson in Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West).
Section #2- gorgeous shot of James Franco opening looking at the bank in the distance, another immaculate shot of the hanging tree. Mentality that we’ve all got it coming.
Unique (and often repetitive) vernacular “hold your tongue”, “pot shot” “dog hole”
Section #3- Neeson’s- very dark and nihilistic—there’s Haneke here, Lars Von, Bergman, Kurosawa’s worldview. Dog eat dog, life sucks then you die…
#4 with Tom Waits is the strongest I believe- the valley montage to open and close as a sort of Eden, stunningly beautiful photography. Deer in the creek, green greens, the animals all run when man comes in. Valley looks like Shane conclusion. White hair like Walter Huston on the gold prospector. Photography reminds me of Terrence Davies’ Sunset Song as well
#5- great shots of wagon line along the prairie- tragic, finds love after an awful life only to die. Cholera is prevalent- this is a harsh, barren, godless world
#6- stagecoach set with dueling philosophies- life is cards, life is the bible, life is a ferret (animal) with two bounty hunters—Gleeson’s beautiful song
Location shooting in Nebraska, Colorado and New Mexico
Like any great anthology the whole is greater than just the summation of the parts- there’s such a rigorous dedication to theme: fatalism (one they’ve held onto since Blood Simple– their debut in 1984- whether it’s the car crash in No Country,Llewyn Davis getting punched in the alley while Bob Dylan becomes a star at the Gaslight or the picking up the phone at the conclusion of A Serious Man)— oddly enough the strongest of the six short films here comes from Jack London and breaks rank a little with Waits surviving.
In many ways it also plays almost like a greatest hits like Haneke’s Happy End from 2017- they’re both so unmistakably films from their legendary auteurs
Recommend- could definitely go higher with a second watch