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.
categories Features, Cinematical