Thursday, July 22, 2010

Barton Fink. A-

Barton Fink has brought about much thematic discussion about nazism, fascism, the movie business, and maybe even religion. But the Coen brothers really don't care much about any of that any more than they do about debating what their movies mean. Sure, they like to throw in historical references, and sometimes even adapt famous literary works, but all of it is centered around an ambiguity I'm not even sure they can explain. They just take a bunch of information they've acquired throughout their life and throw it into a picture. Maybe it makes sense, maybe it doesn't. Anyway, movies about movies are always entertaining, and Barton Fink is no exception. It's a perfect Coen Brothers story of a New York playwright who travels to LA to write a wrestling picture. He arrives at a very strange hotel, befriends a giant insurance salesman, and can barely function as he sits at his typewriter staring at a blank page. Fink is played by John Turturro, a wonderful actor and frequent collaborator with the Coens. I think he may be the only actor who can look bored, confused, and frightened simultaneously. Turturro pulls this look off brilliantly in his first meeting with his boss, played by Michael Lerner. Barton Fink is a much debated film, especially the final half hour or so when it wanders into an obscure, almost dream-like world. It's been said that it actually is just Barton's nightmare, which seems like a reasonable explanation due to the final shot that resembles the image in Fink's hotel. Regardless, this is a wonderfully sad and funny look at a struggling writer trying to make it in the movie business. The film rings true while at the same wandering into the weird and fantastic. That's kind of what the Coens' work is all about.

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