Joel Coen


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Best films:
  1. Fargo (1996)
  2. The Big Lebowski (1998)
  3. Barton Fink (1991)
  4. Raising Arizona (1987)
  5. Miller's Crossing (1990)
  6. O Brother Where Art Thou (2000)
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Raised in Minnesota, Joel Coen (1954) and Ethan Coen (1957) debuted with Blood Simple (1984), directed by Joel and produced by Ethan and co-written by the two, a noir film in which most of the story is not a story at all: it is a series of meaningless events that make perfect sense and imply each other. The film is also the quintessence of dark humour, as its twisted logic and inept protagonists lead to a sequence of dead bodies. It also started a trend, of establishing a film's mood through the choice of the story's location. In a sense, it is the location that determines how the characters act. Asphalt in the night. A man and a woman, Ray and Abby, are driving in the rain (the camera shows us only the back of their heads and the windshield). The woman realizes that someone is following them and tells the man to stop the car. The car behind them stops too, then turns around. Later, they make love in the room of a motel. In the morning, the phone rings and Ray picks up. The man hangs up, but Ray has recognized the voice: it's her husband.
A sleazy private detective, Visser, brings the compromising pictures of their affair to the husband, Marty, the owner of a a strip-club. Marty is fuming. An attractive young woman, Deborah, is chatting with the black bartender. Marty learns from the bartender that Ray has not showed up: Ray is a bartender at Marty's saloon.
Abby asks Ray to leave town. Ray goes to the saloon one last time to confronts Marty and tell him that he is quitting. Marty is furious, and refuses to pay him the last salary.
Later, Marty assaults his wife in Ray's house, but she chases him away. Then Marty hires Visser to kill them. Visser is a clumsy killer, who doesn't know how many bullets are in his gun. Finally, he walks into the room where the lovers are sleeping and shoots (the bullet creates a burst of light in the dark room).
Visser takes a picture of the bodies and brings it to Marty to cash his salary. Marty pays and Visser shoots him, clearly to eliminate a dangerous witness. Visser takes the money and leaves. And this could have been the end of what would be merely a very stereotyped film noir.
Instead, Ray walks into Marty's office: so Ray is still alive. He finds Marty dead and panicks. Perhaps realizing that he will be the natural suspect, Ray begins mopping up the place, but he is only clumsy so he seems more intent in incriminating himself than anything else (he grabs the gun, thus leaving his fingerprints on it, and then makes a big mess of the blood on the floor while trying to wash it away). Ray manages to load the corpse in the car and drives on the usual freeway (asphalt flashing in front of him in the dark). But the corpse is not a corpse, after all: when Ray realizes that Marty is still alive, he panicks. After basically saving his life (Marty crawling out of the car is almost run over by a big truck), Ray decides to dig a hole and dump the still alive Marty into it. As Ray is throwing dirt on the body, the body pulls out a gun from a pocket. Marty pulls the trigger three times, but there are no bullets. Ray resumes the shoveling with renewed alacrity. In the morning, he is done, and drives back on the long, straight freeway. He stops at a booth and calls Abby: so Abby is also still alive.
We still don't know who Visser killed, but we soon find out, as we see Visser burning a series of pictures, from the one he showed Marty (bodies covered with blood) to the one that he really took (that was the burst of light instead of the shot) and in which the bodies have no wounds: he merely took a picture of the couple while they were sleeping, and then altered the picture in his lab so it looked like the picture of two dead people.
The two lovers are totally unaware of what happened. And Abby is totally unaware that her husband has been killed.
Or has he? As Abby is trying to figure out why Ray is all shook up, the phone rings. Abby picks up, and then hangs up, and tells Ray that it was Marty.
In the meantime, the black bartender finds a message at home: it is Marty telling him that a lot of money is missing from the safe. The black bartender drives to Ray's, thinking (as Marty meant to) that Ray has taken the money. Marty set up Ray so that Ray would look like the thief of the money that Marty actually gave Visser.
In the meantime, Visser has gone back to the club and found that the body has disappeared. Abby walks in too, and finds a mess in the office (Visser spies from the closet where he's hiding). She falls asleeps and dreams of Marty.
The following morning she finds Ray ready to leave. He has packed all his belongings. Abby demands an explanation for what is going on. Ray is not connecting. He mumbles that Marty was still alive when he buried him, but he never told Abby anything about that night. She suspects that Ray went to the club asking for his money, had an argument with Marty and killed him. She runs to the black bartender, but he tells her that it is impossible: Marty left the message after the robbery, so he was still alive after the money had disappeared.
Ray goes back to the club and opens the safe, and finds the picture of them dead: so he understands what has been going on. Abby walks into her room and finds Ray staring at the window in the dark. She turns on the light but Ray tells her to turn it off: Ray knows that someone is out there ready to kill them. Before he has time to explain, she disobeys and turns the lights on again: a shot and Ray collapses on the floor. Abby has barely time to move before a second shot aimed at her misses her narrowly. Seconds later, she hears footsteps: it is Visser who comes to collect the bodies. Abby locks herself in another room. Visser tries to come in from the window. In the most gruesome scene of the film, Abby nails his hand to the windowsill with a steak knife. Visser shoots holes in the wall (each hole creates a flash of bright light from the lit room to the dark room) and then demolishes enough of the wall to grab the knife and free his hand. In the meantime, Abby has found a gun and is waiting for him. She shoots him through the wall (making another flashing hole) and Visser dies laughing.
They are all dead except Abby. Abby will never know what this was all about.
(Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx)

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The zany farce Raising Arizona (1987) established the Coens as wildly inventive artists as well as ferocious satirists. Hi e` un criminale recidivo, che in pratica ha passato la vita in prigione. Il suo unico amore e` la poliziotta che gli prende la fotografia ogni volta che viene incarcerato: Edwina. Tentano di costruirsi un'esistenza borghese, ma lei non puo` avere bambini. Scoprono che una donna ha appena avuto cinque bambini e decidono di rapirne uno (scena dei bambini che scappano dalla culla e lui che li insegue per la camera, poi lui abbandona la caccia, ma la moglie lo rispedisce dentro e finalmente lui ne prende uno).
Due dei suoi compagni di cella fuggono dal carcere, scavando un tunnel nella melma in una notte di pioggia (quando escono dalla terra sembra che simulino il parto) e lui non puo` fare a meno di ospitarli, nonostante l'ostilita` della donna. Intanto il padre del rapito, Nathan Arizona, scatena l'inferno. Intanto spunta dal nulla un motociclista punk, che irrompe dentro una casa.
Il boss di Hi e la sua terribile famiglia vengono a trovarli, facendo venire loro diversi dubbi sull'opportunita` di avere una famiglia. Hi perde la pazienza e colpisce il boss, perdendo cosi` il posto.
Hi decide di rapinare un negozio, ma, non appena sente le sirene, Ed scappa con il bambino. Hi deve fuggire a piedi, inseguito da da un'auto della polizia, dal negoziante che gli spara all'impazzata e da un branco di cani. Persa la refurtiva, deve rapinare un altro negozio, sempre inseguito da poliziotto e cani.
A casa i due amici gli creano ulteriori dubbi sul suo matrimonio. Ma Hi e` a suo modo davvero innamorato della moglie. Sull'autostrada sfreccia il motociclista. Hi scrive una lettera d'addio alla moglie. Il motociclista va a parlare con il padre del bambino: e` un cacciatore d'uomini a pagamento che gli offre di recuperare il bambino. Il padre lo mette alla porta.
Come se non bastasse, il boss di Hi scopre chi e` il bambino e decide di vendicarsi. Come se non bastasse, i due amici decidono di prendere il bambino per riscattare la lauta taglia. Liberato dalla moglie, Hi si arma fino ai denti e si lancia all'inseguimento. Intanto i due rapitori hanno lasciato il bambino sul tetto dell'auto e se ne sono accorti soltanto dopo essere partiti. Terrorizzati, tornano indietro a tutta velocita`. Sono piu` patetici che criminali. Rapinano una banca, ma si dimenticano di nuovo il bambino sul tetto dell'auto, e di nuovo il bambino cade in mezzo alla strada. Quando se ne accorgono, vengono fermati da Hi e da Ed, sull'auto della polizia di Ed. Hi e Ed si precipitano verso il posto in cui il bambino e` caduto, ma il motociclista spunta dal nulla e arriva primo. Vola come un dio sulla sua motocicletta e attacca l'auto di Ed. La fa esplodere con una granata e i coniugi fanno appena in tempo a saltare fuori. La donna non si spaventa e va a riprendersi il bambino. Il motociclista la insegue dentro una casa. Hi riesce a disarcionarlo, ma il motociclista e` infinitamente piu` forte di lui e lo massacra di botte. Ma Hi riesce a strappare la sicura di una granata e il motociclista salta in aria.
Esausti, i coniugi decidono di restituire il bambino al legittimo padre, che si trasforma e da` loro una lezione morale: hanno pur sempre l'un l'altro. Ma loro sono decisi a lasciarsi, perche' hanno capito di essere troppo egoisti e di non meritare l'un l'altro.
Il motociclista e` l'unico elemento tragico del film, che per il resto prende in giro tutti e tutto. Il motociclista rappresenta forse la prova finale che Hi e Ed devono superare.
"Arizona" is probably one of their best accomplishments. Their writing is excellent, featuring some truly classic one-liners (a giant, deep-voiced black prison inmate saying he feels "trapped" in a woman's body because "sometimes I get the menstrual cramps real hard"), and some classic scenes of wild comedy (the chasing the baby scene towards the beginning).
The film is a screwball comedy of errors, combining a little bit of satire with the Coen-brand humor, which is often copied, but never as well as the original. They combine funny dialogue, interesting characters, and outrageous situations into this film, creating one of the funniest films I've really ever seen. It's strangely touching, somewhat deep, but always hysterical.

Barton Fink (1991) is a more philosophical and more pessimistic satire of contemporary society and of human nature.

Barton e` un commediografo di New York (anno 1941) che arriva improvvisamente al successo. E` ancora insoddisfatto di se stesso, e sente di poter migliorare. E` un idealista che sogna di rivoluzionare il teatro. Ma gli offrono un contratto da Hollywood che l'agente lo convince ad accettare. A Los Angeles prende una camera presso un hotel gestito dal tuttofare Chet. L'hotel e` un edificio kafkiano, decorato in maniera kitsch. La stanza e` piccola e spoglia, infestata dalle zanzare. L'unica decorazione e` la fotografia di una ragazza in costume da bagno sulla spiaggia. Il boss degli studio lo prende in simpatia. Ad accompagnarlo e` un ex partner ridotto a fargli da cameriere, Lou. In albergo Barton fa amicizia con il suo vicino, Charlie, un bonario corpulento che si fa in quattro per lui. Barton non riesce pero` a concentrarsi e i giorni passano senza che lui abbia scritto una sola scena del film sulla lotta libera. Il produttore lo sprona rivelandogli che si tratta soltanto di un film di serie B. Gli suggerisce di chiedere aiuto a qualche scrittore affermato, e Barton ha la fortuna di incontrare (in un cesso) il piu` famoso di tutti. Questi lo invita a casa sua, ma, quando Barton si presenta, lo scrittore e` ubriaco e la sua segretaria/amante lo mette cordialmente alla porta. Si trovano finalmente a un picnic, e Barton e` disgustato nell'osservare come la ragazza si sacrifica per quel vecchio ubriacone. Barton e` sempre piu` disperato e la notte prima dell'incontro con il boss chiama la ragazza perche' venga ad aiutarlo. Lei viene e fanno l'amore. La mattina Barton si sveglia e la ragazza e` morta al suo fianco. Terrorizzato, chiede aiuto a Charlie, che si incarica di far sparire il corpo. Poi fa i bagagli e dice di voler tornare a New York, e lascia a Barton una scatola accuratamente imballata. Al boss Barton dice di non voler svelare nulla del suo film. Lou lo rimprovera e il boss umilia Lou e poi si mette in ginocchio per baciare i piedi a Barton. La polizia interroga Barton. Stanno cercando Charlie, che e` un celebre assassino. la sua specialita` e` uccidere donne e tagliare loro la testa. Barton, solo nella sua stanza, contempla la scatola che Charlie gli ha lasciato.
Finalmente gli viene l'ispirazione. Si mette a scrivere e non smette piu`. Lavora giorno e notte e completa quello che ritiene il suo miglior scritto di sempre. Passa la notte a un party e scatena una rissa fra marinai e soldati. Tornato in albergo, trova i due detective: lo scrittore e` stato decapitato. Lo credono complice di Charlie. Mentre lo interrogano, l'albergo prende fuoco. I poliziotti ammanettano Barton al letto e si preparano ad affrontare Charlie. Charlie pero` li uccide entrambi, avanzando fra le fiamme. Charlie delira, ma libera Barton e va a rinchiudersi nella sua camera come se nulla fosse. Barton fa appena in tempo a lasciare l'albergo con il suo manoscritto e la scatola di Charlie. Al boss il manoscritto pero` non piace. Vuole un film banale, un film d'azione. Barton e` ancora sotto contratto, non ha scelta: tutto cio` che scrive appartiene agli studios. Barton va a consolarsi sulla spiaggia, portandosi dietro la sua scatola. Una bella ragazza in costume da bagno gli si siede davanti: e` il panorama che ha osservato tutti i giorni davanti alla macchina da scrivere.
In altre parole: ecco cosa si nasconde dietro il sogno californiano, ecco cosa ci cela dietro lo stereotipo delle belle ragazze e delle spiagge assolate.

Fargo (1996) abandons satire and turns to a serious and somewhat detached fresco of society. This time Coen zooms in on the heartland, the place where people are supposed to be kinder and less greedy. And this time, in the bleakest of his films, Coen introduces an optimist subplot: a simple couple with simple goals and simple love.

Fargo e` una cittadina di provincia dove Jerry lavora come executive sales manager nell'azienda del suocero. Vive una modesta e monotona esistenza borghese con una moglie affettuosa e un figlio. La sua croce e` il suocero, che lo tratta come un suppellettile. Dietro l'apparenza di normalita` e timidezza Jerry nasconde un'ambizione sfrenata, che l'ha portato a inguaiarsi con i soldi. Per coprire un debito, ha deciso di assoldare, tramite il suo meccanico, un paio di gangster: l'idea e` che rapiscano sua moglie, chiedano un riscatto e lascino a lui gran parte del bottino. Ha appena definito gli ultimi dettagli con loro che il suocero accetta un suo piano di investimento. Jerry tenta di fermare i gangster, ma e` troppo tardi: il rapimento avviene, anche se in maniera un po' goffa. Meglio cosi`, perche' nello stesso momento Jerry scopre che il suocero era soltanto interessato a soffiargli l'affare, non ad affidargli i soldi. Tornato a casa, Jerry scopre la scomparsa della moglie e mette in atto il suo piano: convince il suocero a sborsare la somma del riscatto, di cui lui tratterra` gran parte. Intanto pero` le cose sono andate storte: i due gangster, Carl e lo psicotico, sono stati fermati dalla polizia, e lo psicotico ha freddato il poliziotto e poi ha rincorso e freddato due malcapitati testimoni. Delle indagini viene incaricata un'amabile poliziotta, innamorata del proprio marito e incinta. Le indagini sull'auto degli aggressori la portano presto nella citta` di Jerry, dal meccanico e infine nel suo concessionario. Intanto Carl ha fissato l'appuntamento per la consegna del riscatto. L'unico problema e` che il suocero ha deciso di andare di persona all'appuntamento, portando tutto il denaro con se`, molto di piu` di cio` che i rapitori si aspettano. All'appuntamento Carl e` sorpreso, tanto piu` che il vecchio, non vedendo la figlia, gli spara a bruciapelo ferendolo alla faccia. Carl lo fredda e poi scappa con tutti i soldi. Jerry arriva sul posto troppo tardi, e si limita a disporre freddamente del cadavere. Carl ha capito che nella borsa c'erano molti piu` soldi di quanto convenuto. Nasconde il bottino nella neve e torna alla catapecchia con quelli convenuti. Il complice psicotico ha ucciso la donna perche' si era messa a strillare. Poi colpisce Carl con un'accetta. La poliziotta e` tornata da Jerry e Jerry, preso dal panico, e` fuggito. La poliziotta cerca lui, ma trova l'auto a cui stava dando la caccia. Si avvicina alla catapecchia e scopre lo psicotico che sta disintegrando il corpo di Carl in un woodchipper. Qualche tempo dopo la polizia scopre il motel dove Jerry si era nascosto e lo arresta. Tutti questi morti per un po' di soldi. La poliziotta torna a casa fra le braccia del marito a continuare la sua umile e felice esistenza.

Changing genre again, Miller's Crossing (1990) is a gangster movie set in 1929, that borrows from Dashiell Hammett's hot-boiled thrillers and from The Godfather.

During the Prohibition, Leo is a middle-aged Irish boss of the organized crime that controls politics and police in the city. Tom is his closer adviser. An Italian gangster, Johnny, visits Leo to ask him for a favor: he wants a gay bookie, Bernie, dead, because he has been messing with his boxing scams. But Bernie happens to be Verna's brother and Verna happens to be Leo's woman. So Leo forbids the murder. Johnny does not forget. Tom also happens to be Verna's secret lover. Tom also has mounting gambling debts to deal with.
One of Leo's man is find killed in an alley and Leo immediately suspects Johnny. Johnny, on the other hand, tries to buy Tom's services. Tom sees through Verna, who is a selfish, calculating woman, and suspects that she is the one who killed the gangster, because he had found out about her relationship with Tom. Bernie, on the other hand, is a despicable character, who is not grateful of Verna's protection and thinks of her as a slut.
After the first skirmishes of war between the two gangs, Tom tells Leo that he is mistaken: his man was not killed by Johnny, was killed by Verna. To convince him, Tom has to confess his relationship with Verna. Leo hits him and throws him down the stairs. Their partnership is over.
Tom goes to work for Leo's chief enemy, Johnny, whose right-hand man is the hateful Dane. To prove he can be trusted, Johnny orders Tom to kill Bernie. Two of Johnny's men take Bernie and Tom to "Miller's Crossing", the place in the woods where gangsters kill their enemies, and then Tom walks Bernie among the trees. Bernie begs for his life, Tom lets him go and shoots in the air to pretend he killed him.
Dane does not believe that Tom killed Bernie and takes him in the same woods to show him the corpse. Since the corpse does not show up, Dane tells Johnny that Tom lied. In return, Tom tells Johnny that Dane is Bernie's homosexual lover. Johnny is an old-fashioned guy who doesn't like all the double-crossing, and he is naif and good-hearted. He starts sweating when under pressure to recognize that someone is misbehaving. He would like to believe in an absolute order of things.
Tom gives Bernie an appointment at his apartment. Then visits Johnny, but Dane is there, accuses him of betrayal and tries to strangle him. Johnny, sweating and trembling, hits Dane with a shovel and then shoots him in the head. Tom coldly gives Johnny the same appointment he gave Bernie. When Tom arrives, Bernie has already killed Johnny. Tom coldly talks Bernie into surrendering his gun and then kills him.
At Bernie's funeral, at "Miller's Crossing", Leo tells Tom that he and Verna are getting married, and offers him his old job. Tom refuses and remains alone among the trees.
The film ends in the woods: Tom loses his hat to the wind and stares at it flying away.
Tom doublecrosses everybody. Tom is the architect of the wave of murders. a bloody war for control of the city between Leo and Johnny. It is never clear how Tom feels, whether he is a divine horseman or an amoral misfit, whether he is a cynical, calculating brain or merely at the mercy of events.
Like in the Godfather, it is patriarch Leo at the beginning of the movie that sets the rules for the moral universe of the film. The labyrinthine plot is a sequence of loyalties, betrayals and deceptions. The difference is that here the gangsters always talk like they are dreaming.

The Hudsucker Proxy (1993) is ostensibly a satirical comedy. However, in reality, it is another post-modernist essay, a wild run through the history of cinema, exhuming the nostalgic populistic tone of Frank Capra and Preston Sturges, the screwball comedy of Billy Wilder and Howard Hawks, and with occasional nods to the gags of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. The Coens reconstruct the atmosphere and even the visual icons of the cinema that pitted corrupt rich people against honest ordinary people, that turned a man's simple life into a society's glorious epic. The problem is that the plot... does not exist. The Coens are happy to recycle classic themes, adding little or nothing to them. A few scenes are entertaining, but the whole is very light fare.

The action takes place in the 1950s. A young man is ready to commit suicide from the roof of a skyscraper as soon as the clock strikes midnight of the last day of the year.
A narrating voice introduces the flashback granting the film the quality of a fairy tale. A young, enthusiastic man, who just graduated from business school and relocated to the city from a small town, stares at a list of job advertisements. In the meantime, Waring Hudsucker presides over the meeting of a company's board of directors at the top of a skyscraper. The company is making money beyong belief. Hudsucker loads puts his watch down on the huge table, steps on the table and runs straight through the window to his death. At that exact same moment, the young man enters the building on his way to apply for a vacant position. The board is still sitting. A few of the directors comment that he could have opened the window instead of breaking it and that he didn't finish his cigar. The company's vice-president (Paul Newman) realizes the problem that they are facing: the president did not write his will and does not have heirs. Legally, this means that anyone can buy enough of the company's stock to kick all of them out of business. There is only one solution: appoint a complete idiot as president and let him destroy the reputation of the company, so that they (the board) will be able to buy the company. In the meantime, the young man has been hired as a mail-boy in the frantic basement of the skyscrapers, mingling with the crowd of humble workers (in a scene reminiscent of Lang's Metropolis). The young man is the only one who does not run for cover and is picked to deliver the terrifying "blue letter". The whole building faints when they see him walk towards the vice-president's office carrying the "blue letter". In the huge, super-human vice-president office, the young man causes all sorts of disasters (after presenting a most stupid business idea) and almost causes him to fall down the skyscraper. The vice-president, hanging upside down while the young man holds him by his pants, pulls out a cigar: he found his idiot. The young man, Norville, is elected president and, sure enough, the company's stock begins sliding down.
The director of a newspaper calls his journalists: he wants an article exposing Norville's ineptitude. A determined and talkative girl, Amy, takes up the job (in a scene reminiscent of Milestone's Front Page). She approaches Norville and keeps talking and talking and talking until he, exausted, hires her as his secretary. Soon, the newspaper begins running her articles that unveil the pathetic truth about Norville's total incompetence. Norville is totally unaware that his own secretary is the poisonous reporter who is writing those articles. She keeps spying on the executive team. During one of her missions, she meets the man who runs the machines of the building, Moses, an old black man who seems to know everything about everybody, and has guessed the truth: they hired Norville to make the stock crash. But she is beginning to feel guilty: she even advises him not to trust people in the big city the same way he trusted people in his hometown. She falls in love with him.
The board decides to invest in Norville's idea: the "hula hoop". It sounds stupid enough that would certainly cause the final collapse of the stock. Instead, the new product is an overnight success. The media turn him into a national hero. He becomes the most desired bachelor in the country. But his heart has hardened. He decides to fire workers and even the elevator boy who gives him another great idea (the bent straw for drinking). Amy resigns as his secretary.
The vice-president finds out that Amy is the famous reporter and tells Norville. The fact is so embarrassing that Norville's career is finished: the board will soon fire him. They drive him to desperation, aiming at locking him into a mental institution. On New Year's Eve, he drinks alone in a bar. The reporter finds him, but now he hates her. He, in turn, is hated by everybody.
Back to the first scene of the film: the clock strikes midnight and Norville jumps to his death... except that something stops him in mid-air: Moses has stopped the gears that move the clock, and therefore Time. A singing angel descends from the sky: it's the old president. The president is upset with him because... he never delivered his "blue letter" to the vice-president! The letter convinces him to stay alive. Moses restarts the machines and Norville safely reaches the road. He marries Amy and is reinstated as president of the company. The vice-president goes crazy and is hospitalized. Norville presents his new invention, the frisbee, to the board.

The Big Lebowski (1998) is an offbeat thriller and a surreal comedy that perhaps best represent Coen's desolate while humane philosophy.

The narrating voice introduces The Dude (Jeff Bridges), an unemployed drifter who spent his youth smoking pot and now roams the supermarkets and bowling alleys of Los Angeles with no apparent goal in life. Assaulted by two punks who think he is a millionaire with the last name, he decides to pay a visit to the millionaire, the "Big Lebowski", and ask him to reimbourse the carpet that the punks urinated on. The millionaire is a disabled veteran with a temper and no patience for hippies, and kicks him out telling him to get a job. The Dude walks out of the room and calmly picks up a carpet from the mansion. On the way out, he also romances a sexy girl by the pool. The Dude spends most of his time at home, listening to the countless messages that people leave on his answering machine.
The Big Lebowski invites him again to his mansion. A self-made man who is proud of his accomplishments and despises losers like the Dude, he has now a problem: someone has kidnapped his wife and is asking for a ransom. He wants the Dude to deliver the ransom money. The Dude lets his friend Walter, a Vietnam veteran, accompany him, and Walter screws up the delivery when he tries a marine-type action. The two spend the evening at the bowling alley with their friend Donny, trying to figure out what to tell the Big Lebowski. When they walk out, the Dude's car has been stolen and, with it, the money.

The Big Lebowski's daughter from a previous marriage, Maude, a haughty liberated artist, takes the rug back, and asks the Dude to retrieve the money (that he never delivered in the first place) in return for a 10% reward. She wants the money back because it belongs to a foundation for children that she and her father manage. Maude elucidates the Dude about her stepmother, a young attractive nymphomaniac and porn star who is simply trying to steal money from her husband. So he understands that the woman kidnapped herself to pay off debts she owes to a porn producer, and that the two punks worked for the porn king. He's interested in the deal, but still disturbed that he lost the rug.
He is on his way home when the Big Lebowski kidnaps him: he knows that the Dude did not deliver the money and is going to tell the kidnappers to go and get it from him, the Dude. They have cut a toe of the woman and mail it as evidence of their intentions. Plus the Big Lebowski promises to cause the Dude ten times more harm than the punks will cause to his wife. The Dude's car is found by the police, but the briefcase with the money is gone. The Dude doesn't even search it, and only days later realizes by accident that the thief has left some pages in the car, a kid's homework, which can lead to his identification. Walter finds out his address and the three friends drive to his car. The kid refuses to talk, and his father lives inside a machine in intensive care. Walter loses his patience and attacks a sport car that he believes belongs to the kid. Instead, it belongs to a neighbor, who retaliates by vandalizing the Dude's car. They return home having failed again.
Next, the Dude is taken by punks to see the porn king in person. The porn king believes that the Big Lebowski's wife is simply hiding from him because she can't pay her debt. Needless to say, he also wants the money from the Dude. The Dude tells him the truth: that the money is in the hands of a teeenager. The porn king drugs him and the Dude has the vision of "Gutterballs", a sort of psychedelic version of Busby Berkley's musicals, featuring the Dude as a bowling maniac (the man running the bowling alley is Saddam Hussein) and Maude wearing a Viking costume.
Back home, the Dude finds Maude naked, ready to sleep with him. He finally understands that the briefcase was always empty: the Big Lebowski didn't even try to pay. He just needed a real idiot like the Dude to pull out his scam. Walter causes another disaster when he thinks that the old man is a fake and lifts him from his wheelchair: the old man collapses on the floor, and they have to haul him back into his wheelchair.
Outside, three nazipunks who also want the money are` burning the Dude's car, and this time Walter can release his military instincts and beat the three nazis. The only casualty is Donny, who has a heart attack and dies. As Donny was a surfer, Walter and the Dude take his ashes to the beach, to release them in the sea, but Walter screws up again: when he opens the box, the wind blows the ashes on their clothes.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx)

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Joel Coen's depression-era comedy O Brother Where Art Thou? (2000) follows the picaresque adventures of three escaped convicts. They create a loose sequence of tragicomic scenes. More importantly, they compose a majestic fresco of sloppy life and a philosophical treatise on the vanity of human struggles. Several sketches and characters parody real stories and protagonists of the South (the Mississippi bluesman who sold his soul to the devil at a crossroads, the singing governor). The film boasts an impressive "period" reconstruction, although little in the way of a real plot. There are many references to Homer's "Odyssey", mixed with a paraphrase of Preston Sturges' Sullivan Travels. Furthermore, the Great Depression looks like some kind of Middle Ages, a pervasive human landscape of poverty, disorder and warfare, but also of myths.

A long line of black prisoners, chained to each other, chant in unison while smashing stones to build a road in the middle of the endless prairie. Three white convicts escape through the fields of corn, still chained to each other. They reach the railroad and jump on a train, but one falls back down and comically drags the other ones with him. The barking dogs signal that the posse is getting close. They jump on a handcar manned by an old man who claims to have no name: he talks like an oracle, predicting that Everett Ulysses, the leader of the three, will find a fortune, except it's not the one he's looking for, after a long journey. They approach a run-down farm house. A child armed with a gun starts shooting at them, thinking they might be sent from the bank to repossess their house. They are obviously not from the bank (they are still wearing convict clothes and are still chained to each other). His ruined father offers them food, but then calls the guards to collect the bounty that he desperately needs. The guards set fire to the barn where they are barricaded but the move backfires on the police. The child (of all people) drives the car into the barn and rescues the three convicts. They send him back after the car breaks down. As they are stuck in a town that is too far from anything, they discuss their plan: Pete (John Turturro) and Delmar are dumb, and it looks like Everett took them with him only because he was chained to them. They believe that Everett is on his way to rescue the colossal loot of his robbery before a dam is built on that location, and they only have four days to make it there. (It is not clear if Everett made the story up). They hear a religious chant and walk to the river. There they find a group of white-dressed Christians who are walking into the water to baptize the new converts. Delmer enjoys being baptized, all his sins washed away. Seeing the beneficial effects on his friend, Pete rushes to the river too. Everett explains to them that it's only a superstition, and it doesn't change their status as escaped and hunted convicts. Having fixed the car, they resume their trip. On the way they pick up a black traveler, Tommy, who claims to have sold his soul to the Devil in exchange for learning how to play guitar. From his description it sounds like the Devil looks like the cold-blooded sheriff who is heading the posse. They stop at the recording studio run by a half-blind white man and record a song, with Everett as the lead voice, Tommy as the guitarist and the other two as backing vocalists. As they walk out with the payment for the song, a white politician walks in to broadcast his speech on the radio. At night they dream of what they will do with the money, while Tommy plays his guitar and sings the blues. But their dreams are interrupted by the posse, that found their car. The three abandon Tommy and run through the forest. The following morning they are walking on an endless dirt road and discussing philosophy. They flag down a car. In the back seat the driver holds a bag full of money. The bag is open and banknotes are flying out of the windows. A car is chasing him. George does not stop the car, but stands out of the window and starts shooting his machine guns. A manic murderer, he even shoots at cows (all the time without stopping the car and not even watching the road). They stop at a town where George, armed to his teeth, robs a bank and terrorizes the customers who recognize him. The three convicts watch in disbelief. At night George is melancholy. He just walks away into the woods. The following day they continue their trip. Unbeknownst to them, their song has become a hit and a record producer is looking for them. A truck carrying a chain gang passes by. They stop the car when they hear women singing. They walk to the river and find three gorgeous scantily-dressed women washing their clothes in the river and singing gentle melodies. The women approach them and start caressing them, touching their faces as if to exorcise them, sensously rubbing against their bodies, enveloping them in the dreamy landscape. They offer them drinks and seduce them. When Delmer wakes up, he sees Pete's clothes lying on the ground. Pete is nowhere to be found, but a toad emerges from his clothes. Delmer screams, believing that the sirens turned Pete into a toad. Everett, Delmer and the toad resume their journey in the bandit's car. They eat at a fancy restaurant keeping the toad in a shoebox on the table. Having eyes their money, a loquacious fat one-eyed man introduces himself as Bible salesman "Big Dan". At a table at the same restaurant politicians are arguing about the elections. The salesman takes them to a field outside where he explains his strategy to make money out of the word of God. Suddenly Dan grabs a branch from a tree and start hitting them in cold blood. He takes their money and their car, and crushes the toad. The truth is that Pete has been captured by the posse and is being flogged mercilessly to reveal where the other two are heading. The flames of the torches are reflected in the sheriff's eyeglasses while the men prepare the noose to hang him. Everett and Delmer hitch a ride from a slow truck carrying bales of hay, and pass their old chain gang that is working by the road. Among the prisoners Everett spots someone who looks exactly like Pete. They reach a town where the a political rally is being held by the opposition. The candidate's name is Homer. The townfolks listen attentively to the hymn being played by children: they are three of Everett's girls. The girls explain that their mother is about to remarry. She told them that he was hit by a train. He finds his wife Penny and his children (who are now seven because there's a new one). He is beaten up by his wife's fiance.
Everett and Delmer watch a movie at the local theater. Police officers armed with guns interrupt the show to let in the whole chain gang. Everett and Delmer finally recognize Pete. (It turns out that the sirens turned them in to collect the bounty). At the headquarters of the incumbent governor his helpers are discussing how to counter Homer's campaign. Everett and Delmer free Pete, who describes how he was tortured and had to tell the sheriff about the treasure. Pete feels terrible, but Everett confesses that there never was any treasure. Everett made it up to convince them to escape with him because he had to reach his wife in time to stop the wedding. Pete is angry because he is now facing a much longer sentence for escaping than he originally had to serve. Pete and Everett fight, and roll down the hill into the woods. Eventually they hear men dancing and chanting, bearing torches in the middle of the night, all dressed in white robes. It's a Ku Klux Klan rally, and Tommy is the man they are about to lynch. The three steal some white robes and are about to free Tommy when Big Dan, who is one of the Klansmen, recognize their smell and unmasks them. The trio manages to escape with Tommy. The leader of the Klansmen turns out to be Homer, the opposition candidate, who is always accompanied by a dwarf. Everett is still planning to disrupt the wedding. His wife's fiance happens to work for Homer, so they infiltrate the crowd at a political rally, disguised as yodeling country musicians. Everett talks to Penny, but she doesn't budge. In the meantime Pappy, the incumbent, tries to bring Penny's fiance to his side. The foursome doesn't know that they have become music stars. When they intone their hit, the crowd recognizes them and goes wild. But Homer recognizes them too and tells the crowd that they "interfered with a lynch mob in the performance of its duty" (i.e., hanging a black man). But he reveals a bit too much of his radical fascist ideas, and the crowd boos him and expels him from the town, while the quartet resumes the song. Pappy dances on stage with them, using their act to his advantage. To arouse the crowd, he publicly pardons them. This almost wins back Penny, but there's still one task she demands of him: her ring, which is still in their cabin, where Everett had originally told his buddies that the treasure was. Just then they witness manic murderer George being pushed by a crowd towards the electric chair. At the cabin they are captured by the sheriff, who has been waiting for them and is not aware of the pardon. They are ordered to dig their own grave before they are hanged (ironically, Tommy too). They sing one last prayer while the nooses are being prepared. Their prayers are heard: the valley gets flooded as the dam is inaugurated, and the water carries them away. They resurface alive in the middle of the lake. A cow is trapped on top of a cabin's roof. Tommy is hanging from a floating desk and finds a ring. Everett thinks it's the one, but Penny doesn't recognize it, and demands the original one, while the children follow them singing another anthem. Everett is reluctant to go on another odyssey to find the ring, while the old oracle passes by on his railway handcar.
(Translation by/ Tradotto da Daniele Perri)

Mister Hula Hoop (1993) è apparentemente una commedia satirica, ma, in realtà, è un altro saggio post-modernista, una corsa selvaggia attraverso la storia del cinema, riesumando il tono populistico-nostalgico di Frank Capra e Preston Sturges, la screwball-comedy di Billy Wilder e di Howard Hawks e con i cenni occasionali alle gag di Charlie Chaplin e di Buster Keaton. I Coen ricostruiscono l’atmosfera e perfino le icone visive del cinema che ha punito i ricchi corrotti in contrapposizione all’uomo comune onesto, e che ha trasformato la semplice vita di un uomo in un’epica gloriosa per la società. Il problema è che la trama… non esiste. I Coen sono felici di riciclare i temi classici, aggiungendo poco o niente. Alcune scene sono divertenti, ma nel complesso il film risulta inconsistente.

Gli eventi si svolgono negli anni ‘50. Un giovane è pronto a suicidarsi gettandosi dal tetto di un grattacielo non appena l’orologio colpisca la mezzanotte dell’ultimo giorno dell’anno.
Una voce narrante introduce il flashback attribuendo alla pellicola un carattere fiabesco. Un entusiasta giovane, appena laureato in economia e spostatosi da un piccolo paese ad una metropoli, guarda fisso una lista di offerte di lavoro. Nel frattempo, Waring Hudsucker presiede la riunione del consiglio d’amministrazione di un’azienda all’ultimo piano di un grattacielo. L’azienda fa soldi in maniera incredibile. Hudsucker mette il suo orologio sull’enorme tavolo, ci cammina sopra e corre dritto oltre la finestra, verso la morte. In quell’esatto momento, il giovane entra nel palazzo per candidarsi per una posizione libera. Il consiglio d’amministrazione è ancora in riunione. Alcuni dei manager commentano che avrebbe potuto aprire la finestra invece di romperla e che non ha finito il suo sigaro.

Il vicepresidente dell’azienda (Paul Newman) comprende il problema da affrontare: il presidente non ha scritto il suo volere e non ha eredi. Legalmente, questo significa che chiunque può comprare azioni dell’azienda in numero sufficiente da potere estromettere il consiglio d’amministrazione. C’è soltanto una soluzione: nominare un completo idiota come presidente e lasciarlo distrugge la reputazione dell'azienda, di modo che loro (il consiglio) potranno comprare l’azienda. Nel frattempo, il giovane è stato assunto come portalettere nel convulso scantinato del grattacielo, mescolandosi con la folla degli umili operai (in una scena che rievoca Metropolis di Lang). Il giovane è l’unico che non corre a nascondersi all’arrivo della terrorizzante "lettera blu" ed è incaricato di recapitarla. Il personale di tutto l’edificio viene meno quando lo vedono camminare verso l’ufficio del vicepresidente portando la "lettera blu". Nell’enorme ufficio del vicepresidente-superuomo, il giovane causa ogni specie di disastro (dopo avere presentato la più stupida delle idee) e quasi lo fa cadere dal grattacielo. Il vicepresidente, sottosopra mentre il giovane lo tiene dai pantaloni, estrae un sigaro: ha trovato il suo idiota. Il giovane, Norville, è nominato presidente e, come previsto, le azioni dell’azienda cominciano a scendere.

Il direttore di un giornale chiama i suoi giornalisti: desidera un articolo che presenti l’inettitudine di Norville. Una ragazza risoluta e loquace, Amy, accetta il compito (in una scena rievocativa di "The front page" di Milestone). Si avvicina a Norville e prende a parlare e parlare finché lui, sfinito, la assume come segretaria. Immediatamente il giornale comincia a pubblicare i di lei articoli che rivelano la patetica verità sulla totale incompetenza di Norville. Norville è completamente ignaro che la sua segretaria sia la velenosa reporter che sta scrivendo quegli articoli. Lei continua a spiare il management. Durante una delle sue missioni, viene a contatto con l’uomo che fa funzionare le macchine del palazzo, Moses, un anziano uomo di colore, che sembra conoscere tutto di tutti e ha scoperto la verità: hanno assunto Norville per fare crollare il valore delle azioni. Ma la donna comincia a sentirsi colpevole: raccomanda a Norville di non fidarsi della gente della metropoli come faceva nel paese da cui proviene. Si innamora di lui.

Il consiglio decide di investire nell’idea del Norville: l’hula hoop. Sembra abbastanza stupida da causare il crollo finale delle azioni. Invece il nuovo prodotto è un successo dall’oggi al domani. I media lo trasformano in un eroe nazionale. Diventa lo scapolo più desiderato del paese. Ma il suo cuore si è indurito. Decide di licenziare gli operai e perfino il ragazzo dell’ascensore che gli dà un’altra grande idea (la cannuccia pieghevole). Amy si dimette da sua segretaria.
Il vicepresidente scopre che Amy è la famosa reporter e lo comunica a Norville. Il fatto è così imbarazzante che la carriera di Norville è finita: il consiglio presto lo licenzierà. Lo portano alla disperazione, puntando a chiuderlo in manicomio. Alla vigilia del nuovo anno beve da solo in un bar. La reporter lo trova, ma ora lui la odia. Lui, a sua volta, è odiato da tutti.
Di nuovo alla prima scena del film: l’orologio batte la mezzanotte e Norville salta verso la morte… salvo che qualcosa lo arresta a mezz’aria: Moses ha arrestato gli ingranaggi che fanno muovere l’orologio e quindi il tempo. Un angelo discende dal cielo cantando: è l’anziano presidente. Il presidente è contrariato con lui perché… non ha consegnato la sua "lettera blu" al vicepresidente! La lettera lo convince a rimanere vivo. Moses rimette in funzione le macchine e Norville raggiunge salvo la strada. Sposa Amy ed è reintegrato come presidente dell’azienda. Il vicepresidente impazzisce e viene ricoverato. Norville presenta la sua nuova invenzione, il frisbee, al consiglio.

Il grande Lebowski (1998) è un thriller atipico e una commedia surreale.

La voce narrante introduce Drugo (Jeff Bridges), un indeciso disoccupato che ha passato la sua gioventù fumando erba ed ora vaga tra supermercati e i bowling di Los Angeles senza uno scopo apparente nella vita. Assalito da due teppisti che lo credono un milionario per via di un’omonimia, decide di chiamare il milionario, "il grande Lebowski" e gli chiede di rimborsare il tappeto sul quale i teppisti hanno urinato. Il milionario è un veterano in sedia a rotelle, irascibile e intollerante verso gli hippies e lo caccia via dicendogli di trovarsi un lavoro. Drugo esce dalla stanza e tranquillamente prende un tappeto dalla villa. Uscendo, abborda una ragazza sexy sul bordo della piscina. Drugo passa la maggior parte del suo tempo a casa, ascoltando gli innumerevoli messaggi che la gente lascia sulla sua segreteria.

Il grande Lebowski lo invita ancora nella sua villa. E’ un uomo che si è fatto da solo, fiero di quanto ha realizzato e che disprezza i perdenti come Drugo, ma ora ha un problema: qualcuno ha rapito sua moglie e gli sta chiedendo un riscatto. Desidera che Drugo porti i soldi del riscatto. Drugo lascia che il suo amico Walter, un veterano del Vietnam, lo accompagni e Walter fa fallire la consegna agendo come fosse un’azione dei marines. I due trascorrono la serata al bowling con il loro amico Donny, pensando a come affrontare il grande Lebowski. Quando escono, l’automobile di Drugo è stato rubata e, con essa, i soldi.

La figlia del grande Lebowski, nata da un precedente matrimonio, Maude, un’emancipata e arrogante artista, si riprende il tappeto e chiede a Drugo di recuperare i soldi (quelli che egli non ha mai consegnato) in cambio di una ricompensa del 10%. Vuole i soldi indietro perché appartengono ad una fondazione in favore dei bambini che lei e suo padre gestiscono. Maude informa Drugo circa la sua matrigna, una attraente e giovane ninfomane, stella del porno che sta provando semplicemente a rubare i soldi del marito. Così lui capisce che la donna ha inscenato un rapimento per estinguere i debiti che deve ad un produttore del porno e che i due teppisti hanno agito per conto del re del porno. È interessato all’affare, ma ancora turbato per aver perso il tappeto.

Sta andando a casa quando il grande Lebowski lo rapina: sa che Drugo non ha consegnato i soldi e sta andando a dire ai sequestratori che i soldi li ha Drugo. Questi hanno tagliato un dito del piede della donna e la hanno spedito come prova delle loro intenzioni. In aggiunta il grande Lebowski promette di causare a Drugo un danno dieci volte maggiore di quello che i teppisti causeranno a sua moglie. L’automobile di Drugo è trovato dalla polizia, ma la valigetta con i soldi è sparita. Drugo neppure la cerca e soltanto alcuni giorni dopo si rende conto per caso che il ladro ha lasciato alcuni foglio nell’auto, i compiti di un bambino, e questi possono condurre all’identificazione del ladro. Walter scopre il suo indirizzo ed i tre amici si mettono in marcia. Il bambino rifiuta di confessare e suo padre vive in una macchina per una cura intensiva. Walter perde la sua pazienza ed distrugge un’automobile sportiva che crede appartenere al bambino. Invece, appartiene ad un vicino, che risponde prendendo a bastonate l’auto di Drugo. Ritornano a casa ancora una volta con un fallimento.

Successivamente, Drugo è preso dai teppisti per incontrare il re del porno in persona. Il re del porno ritiene che la moglie del grande Lebowski stia nascondendosi da lui semplicemente perché non può pagare il suo debito. Neanche a dirlo, desidera i soldi da Drugo. Drugo gli dice la verità: i soldi sono nelle mani di un ragazzino. Il re del porno lo droga e lui ha la visione di "Gutterballs", una sorta di versione psichedelica dei musical di Busby Berkeley, con Drugo nella parte del patito del bowling (l’uomo addetto al bowling è Saddam Hussein) e Maude che indossa un costume vichingo.
Tornato a casa, Drugo trova Maude nuda, pronto ad andare a letto con lui. Infine capisce che la valigetta è sempre stata vuota: il grande Lebowski non ha neppure provato a pagare. Ha avuto solo bisogno di un vero idiota come Drugo per far partire la sua truffa. Walter causa un altro disastro quando pensa che l’anziano sia un falso invalido e lo alza dalla sua sedia a rotelle: l’anziano cade sul pavimento e devono rimetterlo nuovamente sulla sua sedia a rotelle.
Fuori, tre teppisti, anche loro alla ricerca dei soldi, bruciano l’automobile di Drugo e questa volta Walter può liberare i suoi istinti militari e colpire i tre teppisti. L’unico che ci rimette è Donny, che ha un attacco di cuore e muore. Poiché Donny era un surfista, Walter e Drugo portano le sue ceneri alla spiaggia, per disperderle in mare, ma Walter combina un altro disastro: quando apre il contenitore, il vento getta le ceneri sui loro vestiti.

After the noir The Man Who Wasn't There (2001) and the romantic comedy Intolerable Cruelty (2003), both of them more stereotypical of Hollywood cinema, the Coens directed the remake of The Ladykillers (2004).

Emblematic of this period of artistic stagnation is No Country for Old Men (2007), a faithful but rather plain adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's 2005 novel that adds nothing to the original. Roger Deakins's cinematography is rather blunt but that is consistent with the fact that the film has no soundtrack.

The narrating voiceover is a sheriff, son of a sheriff and grandson of a sheriff, who talks about his work in an increasingly violent part of the world, just north of the border with Mexico. A psycho convict breaks out from the jail where a young deputy sheriff is holding him and strangles him. Then he stops a car on the highway and kills the driver using a cattle pistol that looks like a oxygen tank. A solitary hunter who has just wounded an animal but not killed it stumbles onto a massacre: two vehicles surrounded by dead bodies. There was a shootout and the only survivor is a fatally wounded man who begs for water in Spanish. In the back of his truck Llewelyn finds several packs of drugs. He tries to guess where the last man standing might have gone; and finds him under a tree, dead too, but holding a briefcase full of money. Llewelyn does not call the police, does not help the dying man in the truck; he simply returns to his trailer home and to his wife carrying the weapons that he confiscated from the dead and dying people as well as the briefcase full of money. They go to sleep as if nothing happened, but in the middle of the night he feels remorse, fills a container with water and drives back to the scene of the massacre. It is a bad idea because he is suddenly chased by a car and a dog in the dark, has to jump into the river and swim still chased by the dog, kill the dog and finally walk home having abandoned his own car. At home Llewynn tells his wife Carla to get out right away because he knows that the gangsters will only take a few hours to find out the address of the car Meanwhile, the psycho has terrified a gentle old store owner with a sinister interrogation at the end of which he has spared the old man's life only because he has guessed right a coin toss. Later that night he meets at the scene of the massacre with someone he works for, takes Llewynn's vehicle identification number and kills two more people after asking them to hold the light for him. The sheriff who spoke at the beginning shows up at the scene of the massacre. The sheriff and his deputy realize that it must have been a drug deal gone wrong, and notice Llewynn's abandoned vehicle. The following day the psycho finds Llewynn's trailer empty. The manager of the trailer community refuses to tell him where Llewynn works and somehow the psycho spares her life. The sheriff and his deputy search the same trailer just a few minutes later. Llewynn has moved to a cheap motel room, taking with him the briefcase full of money. He hides it deep into the air-conditioning duct. Llewynn arms himself and takes a second room in the motel, at the other end of the duct, while the psycho is driving around, guided by a transponder. The psycho makes it to the motel and takes the room where the transponder makes most noise. It is the right room but he can't find the briefcase. He has to kill three people who enter his room to kill him (or Llewynn). Finally, he understands where the briefcase was but it is too late: Llewynn has rescued the briefcase from the other side of the duct. So far the action has all been taking place in the desert. A businessman whose office is located in a high-rise building of a city hires Carson to sort out the mess: missing money, multiple killings. Carson knows the psycho well, whose name is Anton, a hitman hired to find the money. Llewynn is heading for the border. He takes a room, more paranoid than ever at people following him. In the middle of the night the beeping of the transponder alerts him that someone is outside his door. Llewynn jumps out the window just in time, slightly wounded by a shot. Anton chases him in the deserted streets. Llewynn stops a truck and tells the driver he's not going to hurt him but Anton shoots him dead before Llewynn can finish the sentence. Llewynn boldly faces Anton. The two wound each other but there is no winner. A bleeding Llewynn, having thrown away the briefcase, crosses on foot the border into Mexico. The following morning he pays a group of street musicians to take him to a hospital. A limping Anton sets fire to a car so he can rob a pharmacy. Carson finds Llewynn at the hospital and tells him that Anton won't stop at anything, will kill his wife and kills him just for fun even if the money is recovered. Llewynn's only way out is to return the money to Carson and take Carson's protection against Anton. Llewynn still demurs, claiming that the the money has been spent and/or stolen. The sheriff meets with Carla and tells her that Llewynn is in trouble with gangsters who will kill him, but Carla knows nothing of her husband's whereabouts. Carson discovers where the briefcase is, beyond a fence by the bank of the river that marks the border, but can't retrieve it. He goes back to the hotel, but Anton is there waiting for him. Anton kills him just when the phone is ringing: Anton picks up the phone and hears Llewynn, calling from the hospital across the river. Anton tells him that his wife is dead unless Llewynn returns the money. Llewynn hangs up, leaves the hospital, crosses the border, rescues the briefcase and calls his wife. Meanwhile, Anton, angry that the businessman hired Carson, walks into the high-rise building, enters the businessman's office, points the gun, and shoots him without saying a word. The accounting who is standing there has time to babble that the businessman simply wanted more people looking for the briefcase. Now that she knows where Llewynn is, Carla calls the sheriff and tells him where he is, afraid that Llewynn needs help. Alas, at the same time her mother is naively giving the same information to a gentleman in a suit and tie who has been keeping an eye on them and is working for the gang. When the sheriff arrives at the meeting point, it is too late: Llewynn has been shot dead. The sheriff is tired of all the violence, and wants to retire.
Anton doesn't stop: he tracks down Carla, who has just buried her mother. She doesn't know where the money is. He offers her a coin toss for her life, but she refuses the creepy game. Anton walks away, humane for the first time, gets into a car accident, walks away limping with a bone sticking out of his arm after bribing a kid not to tell the police.
Time has gone by. The sheriff is retired and reminisces about his father, who was also a sheriff.

Moving further into mainstream cinema, Burn After Reading (2008) was a big hit. It was however followed by the nostalgic and low-budget A Serious Man (2009) and by another literary adaptation, True Grit (2010), based on Charles Portis' novel "True Grit" (1968).

The slightly boring and certainly downbeat Inside Llewyn Davis (2013) is the portrait of a homeless, couch-surfing aspiring musician who seems to be cursed from birth. But he is also a delusional character, a bland and unimaginative entertainer with a bland uninspiring voice singing obsolete folk covers. Maybe the film is worth something as a re-creation of the Greenwich Village folk scene before the Dylan explosion, Maybe there is a more interesting film in the allegorical story of the cat named Ulysses, who, unlike Llewyn, finds its way home without any help from anybody. The cat's film has a happy ending, the man's story is headed for personal apocalypse.

The action takes place in 1961, the year before the boom of folksingers like Bob Dylan. A folksinger has just finished his act at a night club and gets beaten in the alley outside by a stranger. The reason for the beating is not given.
Llewyn is a New York folksinger who performs in night clubs. He is staying in the nice apartment of his friend Mitch and watching his cat. When he opens the door, the cat runs out. Llewyn runs after the cat and gets locked out of the apartment. He needs a place for the cat so he enters the apartment of some friends throught the fire escape and leaves the cat there. Then he visits his agent Mel. We learn that he used to play as a duo with a musician who is dead and that he has a solo album. Llewyn has never been paid for the album, and Mel ignores his request for money. When Llewyn tells him that he is homeless, Mel gives him a little bit of money out of his own pocket. When he returns to the apartment, he finds a hostile Jean (who apparently never liked him) and a guest, Troy, a soldier who is also a folksinger. Jean is married to Llewyn's friend Jim. Jean allows Llewyin to sleep on the floor for that night and then writes on a piece of paper that she is pregnant. Later that night Jean, Jim and Llewyn attend Troy's concert. The audience is mesmerized. Llewyin whispers to Jim that he needs to borrow money because a girl is "in trouble" (pregnant), but this time Jim cannot help him. At one point Troy invites Jean and Jim on stage to sing along with him. The next morning Llewyin opens the window and the cat jumps out. This time Llewyin doesn't find the cat. He goes for a walk with Jean and we learn that they have slept together and now she is not sure whether the baby is Jim's or Llewyin's so she is going to have an abortion: Jean is the girl who is in trouble, and Llewyn was asking her husband for the money to pay for her abortion! Llewyn has been through this before with his former girlfriend. Llewyn's sister is selling her house, which was the house of their parents, but she will not get any money out of it. Llewyn calls Mitch from a public phone to tell him that the cat is ok (when in fact it's still missing) and Mitch tells him to rush to the studios for a paid recording. It is Jim who has found him the job. Jim and Llewyn accompany cowboy Al. In need of money to pay for the abortion, Llewyn asks for a cheque instead of a royalty-based contract (he obviously think that the song is garbage and has no value). He then asks Al if he can crash on his couch. He meets Jean at a cafe to talk about the abortion and luckily spots the lost cat near the cafe. Llewyn visits the gynecologist to make an appointment for Jean and pay for the abortion but the doctor does not want to be paid. It turns out that two years earlier Llewyn paid for the abortion of his girlfriend but she didn't go through with it, so the doctor owes him one. Llewyn is shocked to learn that he is the father of a two-year-old child. His former girlfriend never told him and left town. Llewyn returns the cat to Mitch. Mitch insists that he joins his dinner with his upscale friends and insists that he sings a song. When Mitch's wife intones the part that used to be sung by Llewyn's dead partner, Llewyn loses control and starts insulting everybody. As he is about to leave, Mitch's wife realizes that the cat is not ther cat: it is not even the right gender. Al tells Llewyn to move out because his girlfriend is coming and puts him in touch with someone who is going to Chicago. This is an old fat obnoxious jazz musician, Roland, who sits in the back of the car while his valet, a poet named Johnny Five, drives. Roland talks nonstop and always in an insulting tone. We learn that Llewyn's partner committed suicide jumping from a bridge. They need to stop at many gas stations because Roland always needs to go to the restrooms. They stop at a restaurant. Roland walks to the restrooms again, but this time he is taking longer than usual. Llewyn finds him unconscious lying on the floor with a string around his arm: obviously he was injecting heroin in his arm, which is what he presumably did at all previous stops. Johnny is not shocked and simply loads the old man into the car. At night they stop by the side of the road to rest, but a nasty police officer comes to disturb them and arrests Johnny. Llewyn abandons Roland and the cat, and then hitchhikes to Chicago. His hope is to impress an influential manager, but the manager (who has never received any promotional records from Llewyn's agent Mel, contrary to what Mel claimed) is not impressed at all. Llewyn hitchhikes back to New York. The driver is tired and so Llewyn takes the wheel. It is snowing outside. In the dark Llewyn almost hits an animal that crosses the street and looks like his cat. The following day, desperate for a job, he signs up again for his old job as sailor. Before leaving on a ship, he visits his father at the nursing home. The old man doesn't move and doesn't speak, and shits in his pants. Llewyn visits his sister to get his sailor's license that he needs to get on a ship, but his sister threw away all his personal effects as he told her to do. So he can't even work as a sailor. Jean found him a gig at a night club with another act. He tells her that he loves her. At the club he meets the manager, an arrogant Pappi, who boasts that he had sex with Jean, and that's why Jean and Jim get to play in his prestigious club. Llewyn is already drunk and losts control: he starts insulting for no reason a middle-age woman who is singing a traditional song. Pappi's body guard throws him out. His last resort is Mitch, and in fact Mitch welcomes him again into his house. His wife even apologizes him for upsetting him. They are having two guests who have just heard Jim's new song (the one that Llewyn despised so much that he waived any royalties from it) and predict that it will be a hit. Luckily, Mitch's cat came back by itself. Llewyn performs at Pappi's club and he sings the song that he used to sing with his late partner. The next act is... the young Bob Dylan. Llewyn has a visitor: the husband of the singer whom he offended the night before, who kicks him badly in the alley. This is the exact same scene that opened the film. Now we realize that the whole film has been one long flashback.

Hail Caesar (2015) is many movies within one movie. There is a main film which is about the crazy, stressful life of a film producer. This film itself is really many films in one, because it runs the gamut from comedy to melodrama, from noir to spy thriller; a postmodern take on cinema of the 1950s. Then there are snippets of the films that he is producing, which range from a historical-religious drama to a musical, from an aquatic ballet to a western movie. It is a self-referential romp through the filmmaking industry. The main allegory is a bit too superficial, but it seems to be about how life is complicated but then some find meaning precisely in that chaos.

The action takes place in 1951 in Hollywood. Eddie is devout Catholic who frequently confesses his sins to his priest, although he has very little to confess. His methods, on the other hand, are often unethical and brutal: he slaps a model who is wasting time, and then bribes the cops summoned by neighbors. Suddenly, we are transported into ancient Rome for the historical-religious epic "Hail Caesar" about the crucifixion of Jesus from the viewpoint of a Roman legionnaire. Eddie is watching while the actors and the staff are making it in the colossal set. Suddenly, we are transported to the Far West, where an acrobatic cowboy is being chased by criminals. Unbeknownst to him, two of the extras are plotting to kidnap the star of the Roman epic, Baird. They drug him and then take him to an isolated chalet by the coast. Eddie is busy presenting the epic to the religious authorities of the city, who bicker about the divine nature of Jesus. Eddie's boss calls him requesting that the cowboy star be given a protagonist role in another film. Suddenly, we are trasported into an aquatic musical. The star is an attractive acrobatic swimmer, DeeAnna. Unfortunately, she tells Eddie that she is pregnant. She has already divorced twice and has no intention of marrying the father. This would be a scandal that could wreck her career. Meanwhile, the cowboy shows up dressed like a gentleman on the set of a British director. The director quickly realizes that the cowboy is incapable of acting. The director complains with Eddie, but Eddie tells him that there is nothing they can do to remove the cowboy from the film. Eddie learns that Baird is missing and that this will cost a fortune in delays. Eddie has lunch with a businessman who wants to hire him for an aviation company. It would be a much easier job, and well paid. The businessman shows him a picture of the atomic test at the Bikini atoll. Baird wakes up in the chalet and finds a group of intellectuals discussing politics and economics. They are communists, assembled around the German philosopher Marcuse. Eddie receives a ransom note for the safe return of Baird. Eddie is also haunted by two female journalists (Thora and Thessaly) who happen to be twins and competing with each other for the most salacious gossip. One is determined to publish a story about Baird that would destroy his career. Eddie talks her into postponing the story by one day, promising an exclusive about an affair between the cowboy star and another star, an affair that he is engineering. Eddie packs the ransom money and, after confiding the ordeal to the cowboy star, delivers it, as instructed, on the set of a musical about some sailors who are about to leave for eight months (a lengthy musical intermezzo). The director of this musical is the father of DeeAnna's baby but he has no interest in ever seeing her again: he is happily married with two children. Meanwhile, Baird gets brainwashed by the communists about how the Hollywood system exploits the writers. Eddie's trusted lawyer finds a solution to DeeAnna's problem: she grants an adoption to a man who frequently poses for their legal schemes, and he will grant her the adoption of her child, so that the media will write about her generosity in adopting an orphan instead o writing about a scandalous pregnancy. The aviation agent tries again to hire Eddie, but something keeps Eddie from saying yes even if the job would clearly be simpler and better paid than the one he has in the film industry. The cowboy goes out with the Hispanic star of exotic musicals. They watch one of his (hilarious) cowboy movies and then head to a club, where they are spotted by both twins. The cowboy spots a man with the briefcase that Eddie had filled with money, follows him, reaches the beach chalet, and finds Baird comfortably sitting in a room. Baird, totally brainwashed, has decided to join the communists, but nonetheless accepts a ride back to the studio. The communists are rowing a boat towards a Soviet submarine. One of them is fleeing to Moscow. The others decide to hand him the briefcase with the money. He drops in the water when his dog jumps to him, and the others watch horrified as the briefcase drifts away. Eddie, who has spent the night trying to solve all these problems, talks briefly to his sweet wife about the job offer. When Eddie meets Baird, he slaps him in the face repeatedly, reminding him that he is there to act, not to give political speeches. Baird retreats like a child and goes back to his set, giving a moving performance in front of Jesus' cross. DeeAnna has fallen in love with the man who was paid to adopt her baby: she will marry him so the problem is solved. Now the only remaining problem is the article that Thora is ready to publish: it is rumored that Baird had sex with the British director. Eddie, however, has learned that the story originated from one of the communists and tells Thora that her own career would be ruined if she published communist propaganda. Eddie confesses to the priest again, just one day later. He mentions that he has been offered an easier job and wonders whether easy things are right.
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