Wednesday, January 19, 2011

My Quest To See the 1000 Greatest:
Blood Simple. (1984)

Blood Simple. is #574 in  
My Quest to watch the 1000 Greatest Films 

Screened 09/08/10 on DVD at Midtown Cinema

Ranked #626 on TSPDT

*this is one in a series of catch-up reviews in my aforementioned quest (which should explain the rather old screening date above).

Blood Simple (according to Dashiell Hammett's 1929 novel Red Harvest): a term used to describe the addled, fearful mindset of people after a prolonged immersion in violent situations.  "This damned burg's getting me. If I don't get away soon I'll be going blood-simple like the natives." 

In a sort of reverse mentality, it is not until I have seen numbers two through fourteen of the Coen Brothers oeuvre, that I finally go back and watch number one.  Number one of course, being the neo-noir thriller Blood Simple.  Starring John Getz, Frances McDormand (who would become Joel Coen's wife during filming, and is still such today, some twenty-seven years later) and Dan Hedaya as the requisite love triangle with the equally requisite tragic ending (at least for two of them), the Coens had fashioned a fun, if not quite all that unique, film noir in their first turn out of the gate.  

With obvious nods to such past noir (or noirish films) as Double Indemnity, Out of the Past, Strangers on a Train and The Ladykillers (which the Coens' would eventually remake, albeit poorly so) brothers Joel and Ethan do a (for lack of a better term) bang-up job with this film.  Perhaps it is not in the upper echelon of the brother's aforementioned oeuvre (when compared to the work they would turn in later on in their career - and are still handing in to this day) but is certainly an aspiring directorial debut, full of an obvious love and knowledge of film history, as well the beginning stages of that strange, almost bewildering style (combined with the style of the noir they are imitating) that will become the brothers' hallmark throughout their career.

The movie surely has some great scenes hinged throughout the production, including both an hilarious scene in which a dead man just refuses to stay dead, instead choosing to crawl down an almost empty highway in a stylistic moment that will come to define the Coens' as filmmakers (become, as I stated earlier, their hallmark, if you will), and a phenomenal freak-out finale that should be considered among the very best of its kind, and the movie is definitely one of the better of the neo-noir movement of the eighties, and M. Emmet Walsh gives what is probably the best, and most sinister, performance of his career as the snake-oiled, hired hit-man (another requisite noir factor).

In the annals of film history, Blood Simple. (and yes, the period is supposed to be there) should go down as one of the best examples of neo-noir out there as well as an audacious start to a long (and sometimes uneven) career.  To further illustrate the importance of this directorial debut, one need only look at Zhang Yimou's Chinese remake of the film, the giddily named (but not very good) A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop.  Not only does Zhang do his own game of reversal, by remaking an American film in Asia, but he whole-heartedly announces it as the proudest (and strangest) of remakes right there on the poster.  The film's legacy is assured.

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