Blood Simple,
directed by Joel & Ethan Coen
(Universal, 1984)

I saw Blood Simple when it came out in 1984 in a college auditorium packed with students. During the final 5 minutes, half of the audience was screaming their heads off and the other half were laughing hysterically. When M. Emit Walsh uttered the final line in the movie, the place went crazy. People were still laughing in the parking lot. It is one of the best movie endings of all time.

From the opening scene, when the camera tracks down a saloon bar and floats up to get over a drunk slumped on the counter, I knew we were in for some fun. I won't bother explaining the plot except that it depends on the confusion and misunderstanding of four people tied together in a murder plot. Rarely have wrong conclusions proved so fatal.

What I love about this movie is how it keeps reminding you that it's a movie. Examples:
• One character makes a dramatic revelation to another. Immediately, we see a rolled-up newspaper tumble toward us until it slams into a screen door.
• One character buries another in the middle of a field at night. At dawn, an overhead shot shows blatantly obvious tire tracks across a freshly plowed field.
• Oncoming car signals driver, who has just committed a murder, that he can shut his car lights off. Driver shuts them off. As the oncoming driver passes, he playfully "shoots" with his finger out the window.
• And the final deadly showdown between two characters who are virtually face to face, but can't see each other because there's a wall between them, has to be one of the most ingeniously filmed scenes in movie history.

The great Coen brothers movie trinity are this, Raising Arizona and Fargo. I would also include No Country for Old Men, but the beauty of that movie has more to do with Corman McCarthy's novel than the brothers themselves.

The Coens are cinema's greatest geniuses of the sly wink.

review by
Dave Sturm

18 December 2010

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