Sunday, July 02, 2006

Blood Simple (1983)

Blood Simple (1983)
Directed by Joel Coen
Written by Joel and Ethan Coen

Starring Frances McDormand, Dan Hedaya, John Getz, M. Emmet Walsh

Call me quirky, but I really like the Coen Brothers, and I haven't even seen all their films. Raising Arizona is one of my favorite movies; I first saw it when I was young and impressionable and it still holds up. I really enjoyed O Brother, Where Art Thou. Fargo made me feel uncomfortable, but I get it.

Blood Simple is suspenseful enough so I wasn't sure if it was okay to laugh. But some of it made me want to, though he subtle humor in this film, billed as a drama/suspense, is nowhere near as obvious as that of Raising Arizona.


It opens with the narration of one character who ends up dead, like in American Beauty...but we're not supposed to know that. Then... a recurring beat throughout the film that mimics a heart beat. We first hear it in the music in the opening credits over 'Blood Simple,' which synchronizes with the beat of windshield wipers. Later we hear it with footsteps and an an alarm clock.

I felt badly for all the characters, except for the scummy detective, played by M. Emmet Walsh (who also plays H.I.'s loud, obnoxious coworker in Raising Arizona). Even Abby (Frances McDormand), whom we think is shady and dishonest, earns our sympathy by the end.

The extended death scene was so pathetic at times it was almost funny. Ok some of it was funny. Not laugh-out-loud, guffaw funny...but funny enough that it makes you feel bad for thinking so.

I love the way the Coens craft their shots. There is a lot of zooming in from wide shots consisting of parallel lines that converge on a horizon, which speaks to the open Texas surroundings and also helps convey the underlying loneliness and alienation of some of the characters. The use of the handheld --- the excitement in some of the more suspenseful scenes.

I forgive the synthesized music because it works in this independent film. I think it adds to the film's charm, even though the film is a bloody drama. It works in comedies and bloody films for some reason.

Overall, I think the film holds up well. Something that is uncommon for an 80s movie: out of all the characters all the white males end up dead...and everyone else lives! Wow!

I noticed a couple of tiny things. When the detective is leaving Ray's house, someone is visible in the light to the right of the screen as soon as he gets outside. Is that a goof? Also, I could have sworn I saw Tom Cruise leaning against a car in a scene featuring a bunch of burnout kids (right before Marty meets the detective in his VW beetle).

I loved this film. I want to see it again because I know I missed some things the first time. I thought the ending was innovative and great...and pure Coen brothers. (Although I can see a Psycho influence with the dripping water...but it's still very much Coen, from what I know about film so far.)

If anything, the last month has inspired me to see every Coen brothers movie I've never seen.

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