Undoubtedly the greatest film of the Coen brothers?

Hollywood’s inclination to romanticize the art of writing is a familiar story. by Woody Allen Midnight in Paris is an example of a script that moves in and out of Parisian “café culture”, as screenwriter Gil Pender (Owen Wilson) collects the brains of the “lost generation” from the cobbled streets of the French capital. Gil uses a pensive Hemingway and the sensibility of F. Scott Fitzgerald as literary sounding boards, as he travels back in time in search of inspiration to help counter his writer’s block.

The capricious, wandering, aimless writing souls as portrayed in movies are perhaps a bit cliché these days, an exhausted narrative, especially compared to the genius of some real writers. Like Hemingway and Fitzgerald, the Coen Brothers writer/director duo are one of a kind, without limits or conventions, constantly challenging common ground, somehow locating nuance in what is already nuanced. .


Introducing Barton Fink

1991 was a great year in cinema, especially for Jonathan Demme’s film Thesilenceofthelambs close to a clean slate at the Oscars. While Demme, Foster, Hopkins & co. was adored at the Oscars, the Coen brothers were one of the winners of the 90s Palme d’Or and had their own prize list at Cannes for their new photo, Barton Fink. Their harvest of awards would actually lead the Cannes Film Festival to change its rules so that no film could again dominate in this way, and yet Barton Fink would go on to become a box office flop.

30 years later and that paltry $6.1 million in theaters is not a defining statistic in by Barton Fink now adorned the reception as one of the greatest, most unique and infuriating allegorical films ever made. With a filmography featuring personalities like There is no country for old people, The great Lebowski, Fargoand true bravery, it is a symbol of true praise which Barton Fink is arguably the blue diamond in the Coen brothers’ treasure chest.

Related: The Coen Brothers: How Directors Dissect American Culture

Barton Fink, unlike the aforementioned Woody Allen film, doesn’t contain the generic platitudes of a tedious, directionless writer who ventures to a foreign city in hopes of a burst of creativity (although LA might as well be foreign to Barton, in a perfect John depiction of Turturro). Beginning in his native New York, Fink is a seemingly gifted and famous Broadway playwright whose promise leads him to a role at Capitol Pictures to become a screenwriter on the West Coast, in Los Angeles.

Barton Fink, for and against “the ordinary man”

Initially skeptical of his new position, Fink moves to Los Angeles, checking into the seedy Earle Hotel where he neighbors “everyone” insurance salesman Charlie Meadows (in one of the biggest roles by John Goodman). Fink spends his days and nights frantically typing on his typewriter like some sort of screenwriting freak, with every draft inevitably destined for the trash.

As with all of Coen’s films, Barton Fink is heavily stylized, both in production and in character. From the dull, dingy hotel room where soggy wallpaper is visibly peeling from the walls, and the only decorative element is that of a lady sitting on a beach, to the personalities of Fink and Meadows offering an on-screen oxymoron, with Fink’s clumsy despair and Meadow’s larger-than-life outlook. On reflection, Barton’s dark, faded hotel room foreshadows the eventual impact that the rigorous demands of LA and Hollywood writing will have on him. Fink is a contradiction who walks, speaks and writes, driven by the aspiration to make theater and film productions for “the common man”, he descends to a place where that desire is least likely to materialize, ruled by pseudo-intellectuals in their ivory, the towers of Hollywood.

The beauty of the Coens Barton Fink, simply put, is that it cannot be conventionalized. It’s a synthesis and subversion of genre conventions that seem to work harmoniously before becoming discordant, and Barton’s subtle self-centeredness comes to the fore. His infatuation with creating theater for “the common man” becomes a desperate cry for autonomy in an industry dominated by conformity, and his attempts to write a purely proletarian screenplay end up being based on anything but: a wrestler.

Related: Macbeth Director Joel Coen Talks Working Without Brother Ethan

His move to the so-called “City of Angels”, which is rather rightly plagued by evil, renders him helpless and unlovable. His vulnerability is not a game of sympathy, but a source of irritation; like the vexatious buzz of the ubiquitous mosquito in his room, you feel like crushing Barton, along with the rest of the hateful characters. Ironically, it’s the madman, serial killer Charlie Meadows, who you gravitate toward the most. At first glance, he is a warm, friendly and caring individual, the common man personified, whom Fink almost inadvertently condescends with his dull rhetoric about making theater and film for “humble” people like himself. Of course, Meadows ushers in an apocalyptic horror spectacle towards the end of Barton Finkperhaps some sort of manifestation of Fink’s simultaneous desire and fear for the working class.

The handsome and incomprehensible Barton Fink

Like that of another Hollywood trance movie, Mulholland Drive, Barton Fink is a mix of fantasy and mystery, and as the script reaches its climax (and Roger Deakins’ great cinematography grows ever more claustrophobic and surreal), it certainly raises more questions than it answers. . It’s like that’s a great metaphor, but for what we’re not sure, although Ethan and Joel have attested otherwise. Barton Fink has a myriad of subtexts, be it Judaism, Hollywood, World War II, the impossible difference between fantasy and reality, the death of working class politics in America, terror of “ordinary people” or simply writer’s block (the Coens notoriously wrote the script in three weeks while working on Miller crossing and need a break).

It serves as a lesson in how the harsh reality of LA will chew you up and spit you out, especially in Barton’s case, being prone to writer’s block and immense pressure from Hollywood hotshots like Jack Lipnick (Michael Lerner). ). Absurdly, you find yourself desperately rooting for Fink, who, despite some of his nasty qualities, is the only hope capable of making sense of the madness that engulfs him. Wishing with every fiber of his being that he could just hurry up, overcome writer’s block, and get out of this shit hole alive and with his sanity intact. You always find yourself with this burning question: why? It’s a movie that makes you think, and think, and fink, and fink, until you start to question your own sanity. And therein lies the beauty of this masterpiece.

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