David: So are we doing this as a dialogue then?
Scott: Aye. We are.
David: Cool, I guess I’ll start then! My first instinct would be to talk about how out of their depth most of the characters in Blood Simple are. If I can get a little flowery for a minute, it’s a film full about people spilling blood, slipping in it and drowning in the puddle. I started reading Crime and Punishment not long after we watched the movie, and the following snippet jumped out at me:
“How cunning and experienced the rascal must have been! Such boldness! Such resolution!”
“That is just what he was not,” cried Razoumikhin. “This is what you all say! I believe, on the contrary, that it was neither a bold nor a daring deed. If you consider, you will see how improbable is your idea. Chance alone brought him out of the scrape, and what does not chance do? He seems to have forseen no obstacles, and how did he manage all? He obtains some ten or twenty roubles, fills his pockets with them; while hidden away everywhere–in old rags, drawers, trunks, ad such-like–were afterwards found fifteen hundred roubles in hard cash, beside bank-notes. The man knew how to murder, but not to rob!”
Oh, shit, *SPOILERS* – Crime and Punishment contains some crime, possibly a little bit of punishment too.
Scott: So, if I read it, I wouldn’t be having a moment like this?
David: You might do – there’s a lot more gnashing and fretting and muttering than there is crime, at any rate. Still good though!
Anyway it occurs to me that only one character in Blood Simple knows how to either rob or murder, and that’s M. Emmet Walsh’s Loren Visser:
And where does that get him, in the end?
*SPOILERS* – Blood Simple contains a fair amount of blood, it drives many of the characters simple.
I’m feeling pretty simple right now too. Maybe we can make it a theme?
Scott: Our bold new theme?
David: It may go down as such.
Scott: Taking that idea, and running with it, brings me to that argument I had about Miller’s Crossing, where a co-worker said he couldn’t get into it because it was “just a gangster film” and “gangsters deserve what they get”. He felt that set it apart from other examples of Coen fare. From what I can tell, their stuff is always about the momentum of choice. Especially a choice made under a misunderstanding.
I get Sean’s horror movie comparison. This is a story where there are those moments where you’re mentally screaming at the characters “NO, FOR FUCK’S SAKE, DON’T DO THAT!”. But, hey, as you say, the title tells you that in a nutshell.
David: Ha! As you know, I tend to get a little narky when people start complaining about that aspect of horror movies, because while there’s obviously a line that can be crossed in terms of having a basically functional human being act so stupidly, I think part of the appeal of those movies is that of course you wouldn’t go in that house, BUT WHAT IF YOU DID?!
Your coworker’s complaint about Miller’s Crossing shows a complete lack of understanding of art and storytelling, so – yeah, fuck them.
I ended up thinking about Blood Simple again(!) while I was watching the first episode of Charlie Brooker’s How TV Ruined Your Life. All the stuff about how TV would have you believe that all killers are super-competant geniuses, while in reality they’re mostly just people moving from one fuck up to the next.
Scott: It’s the contrast between say, The Wire, where it’s a matter of neccesity or lifestyle to embark on a criminal endeavour, as opposed to the Hollywood grand serial killer operatic approach.
David: Or, like, Dexter – serial killing vigilante! (I do like that show, but it’s enjoyable nonsense, you know?)
Scott: We want crime to fit into this huge poetic narrative that EVERYTHING HAPPENS FOR A REASON, and is calculated as such. Every criminal should be one wardrobe change from being a Batman villian.
Generalising a lot here, but you know what I mean.
David: Definitely. What’s interesting about the Coen brothers is that it almost seems like their movies play out in an aggressively meaningless world sometimes. Like they’re setting out to prove that god does play dice with the universe, or whatever. Blood Simple is a good example of this – most of the action doesn’t happen for the reasons the characters think it does, but it’s all very neatly planned out, in cinematic terms. Everything’s perfectly worked out and executed, from the bottom on up. It’s kinda scary to think that Blood Simple was their first movie to be honest with you…
Scott: Hah. See, now you’ve got me thinking about the conversation Karen and I were having about the grim, neverending doom factor of the Lemony Snickett books…
A calculated attempt to undermine “…and they all lived happily ever after.”
You found some of the music distracting, am I right?
Scott: No, not distracting. I was just aware of it being as coreographed as the visuals. It just seemed odd because I guess the soundtrack seemed very much of it’s time, and I have to confess, except where they use explicit songs or musical set pieces, I’d never thought about their use of music in their films. I’d certainly noticed their use of it’s absence, so that’s maybe why it stood out.
David: Yeah, The Big Lebowski and O Brother Where Art Thou are the ones where they obviously use the music the most, but there’s also, like – Miller’s Crossing, the theme’s quite essential to parts of that.
Scott: True, but with No Country, it’s the absence that sticks in my mind during some of Chigurh’s moments.
David: True. While No Country and Blood Simple make for a very good (easy?) comparison, that’s definitely a notable difference.
Apparently there were rights problems with ‘It’s The Same Old Song’ for this movie, but those have been sorted out for the DVD version.
That song certainly works, in a proto-Tarantino DO YOU SEE?! sort of way…
I also really like those amazing percussive sweeps that synch in with the car’s windscreen wipers during the opening. There were a few show-offy touches like that throughout the movie, just little shots or scenes that punch you in the face to make sure you’re paying attention.
The scene where Visser goes through their house, for example… they way the film leads you through that is just totally fucking masterful.
Scott: As you say, for a debut feature, it’s assembled with a real flourish. It’s not say, the painter’s eye of Ridley Scott. It’s much more about motion, leading you through a scene, a location, a feeling. Rather than using a single image to provoke.
David: Going back to that No Country for Old Men comparison, it’s interesting to put them beside each other… They’re both similarly harsh, but the characters in No Country seem a lot steelier and more determined in the face off all the violence.
Scott: Professional, versus the amateur? Almost a Coen career observation there.
David: Yeah, I was wondering whether to go there myself. I think No Country’s a richer, more textured film, but it’s probably worth noting that while their first set of characters might have went Blood Simple, the Coen brothers seem to have been in control from the very start.
Still, it’s not like the relative competence of the No Country cast does many of them any good. In the Coens’ universe, no matter how hard you might you think you are, it’s still possible that you’ll trip up and crack your head on your way down the shops. Even (especially?) if you think you’re an agent of fate.
Scott: Don’t they largely deal in farce, but moderate the harshness of the tone? Chigurh getting hit by a car at the end of No Country is no less random than say anything that happens in Burn After Reading, but the tone of the film makes it a grim fact, rather than a side-splitter.
David: Definitely. Burn After Reading is basically a film that laughs in the face of all human aspiration, so it’s actually one of their harshest and most unpleasant movies, despite ostensibly being a comedy.
That said – not all of their films end on a down note. Raising Arizona ends with an optimistic dream, the ending of The Big Lebowski is… fairly affable, in the face of tragedy, etc.
Scott: Ah, but it’s the tragedy that makes the journey worth it, surely?
David: That and the way they make a web of seemingly random occurrences and unexpected consequences so fucking compelling. Whatever movie they make – and they’ve worked in a load of different genres over the years – on some level, it’s always the same old song.
It just keeps playing, on and on.
Scott: “There was some blood!”
David: And thank fuck for that!
Scott: So, without really getting into the guts of the film, we can say that we were struck by the, uh, transmission of genetics throughout the Coen’s fare.
David: Mixed many metaphors recently mate?
Scott: I might just pay someone to kill you for that!
David: Fair enough, but remember, they probably won’t make a very good job out of it…