The films of the Coen Brothers tend to split their admirers into different camps. Some love everything they do, many favor their loonier comedic endeavors (Raising Arizona, The Big Lebowski, O Brother, Where Art Thou?), and still others pledge allegiance to their more straightforward and violent dramatic offerings (Miller's Crossing, Fargo, No Country for Old Men).
I fall into the latter camp, having first encountered the unique sensibilities of Joel and Ethan Coen on a tiny television in my tiny Brooklyn living quarters in the late 1980s. Even in a bowdlerized version for television, interrupted for commercials every 10 minutes, Blood Simple held me mesmerized from its opening shot -- an extreme low-angle view of a two-lane highway, shredded rubber tire in the foreground -- to its last.
Watching the film again last night, I was struck by how accomplished the film looks. You could play it on a double bill with No Country for Old Men and be reminded that the Coens already knew the power of silence way back in 1984. They also knew a great image when they saw one, appreciated the value of underplaying a performance, recognized the allure of shadows and silhouettes, and treasured subtle nuances. They've grown and matured, expanding their thematic range, but their debut demonstrates that they've always been uncommonly assured filmmakers.