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The Brothers Grim: The Films of Ethan and Joel Coen Paperback – June 1, 2007


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The Brothers Grim: The Films of Ethan and Joel Coen + The Philosophy of the Coen Brothers (The Philosophy of Popular Culture) + The Coen Brothers: Interviews (Conversations with Filmmakers)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 392 pages
  • Publisher: Scarecrow Press (June 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0810858509
  • ISBN-13: 978-0810858503
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 6.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #983,387 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

...well written and engaging. (American Reference Books Annual, March 2008)

Rowell (a journalist and film producer) titles each chapter examining a film from the prolific duo Joel and Ethan Coen (known as the Coen Brothers) after an object that figures so prominently in the movie that it is almost a character. In "Blood Simple: A Photo," "The Big Lebowski: A Bowling Ball" and the other essays, she offers a synopsis, review, and dissection of the themes, technique, influences, and stark social commentary of the often violent and satirical and always stylized Coen films. The writing-directing brothers also created Raising Arizona, Miller's Crossing, Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou? and Intolerable Cruelty. (Reference and Research Book News, August 2007)

Rowell examines [the Coen brothers] with greater concentration than the typical scattershot making-of or makers-of commentary, and even announces something like an analytical framework to apply to the films. (Film International)

From the Back Cover

In 1984, Ethan and Joel burst onto the art-house film scene with their neo-noir Blood Simple, and ever since they have sharpened the cutting edge of independent filmmaking. Blending black humor and violence with unconventional narrative twists, their acclaimed movies evoke highly charged worlds of passion, absurdity, nightmare realms, and petty human failures, all the while revealing the filmmakers' penchant for visual jokes and bravura technical strokes.

In The Brothers Grim: The Films of Ethan and Joel Coen, Erica Rowell unmasks the filmmakers as prankster mythmakers exploiting and subverting universal storytelling modes to further what seems to be their artistic agenda: to elicit laughs. Often employing satire and allegory, the Coens' movies hold a mirror up to American society, allowing viewers to both chuckle and gasp at its absurdities, hypocrisies, and foibles. From business partnerships (Blood Simple, The Ladykillers) to marriage (Intolerable Cruelty) to friendship and ethics (Miller's Crossing), the breakdown of relationships are a common focus in their work. Often the Coens put broken social institutions in their cinematic crosshairs, exposing cracks in ineffective penal systems (Raising Arizona; O Brother, Where Art Thou?), unjust justice systems (The Man Who Wasn't There), a crooked corporate America (The Hudsucker Proxy), unnecessary wars (The Big Lebowski), a tyrannical Hollywood (Barton Fink), and the unbridled and fatuous pursuit of the American dream (Fargo). While audiences may be excused for missing the duo's social commentary, the depth and breadth of the brothers' films bespeak an intelligence and cultural acuity that is rich, highly topical, and hard to pigeonhole.

The Brothers Grim examines the inner workings of the Coens' body of work and exposes its roots and themes. Each chapter discusses a Coen brothers movie in terms of its primary themes, social and political contexts, narrative techniques, and influences and relationships to their other films and, more broadly, to cinema. Rowell also examines the Coens' referential modus operandi that retreads cinema, literature, history, philosophy, and art to amplify their films' themes. This comprehensive guide -- enhanced by 50 photographs -- is for anyone interested in the Coens' unique brand of cinema.


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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Yet always it is factual and informative.
David C. Stuart
I was truly impressed by the scope of the analysis and the thoroughness of the research conducted.
James Wang
I LOVE almost all of the Coen Bros' films.
Steve Mcintosh

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By James Wang on October 13, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I didn't used to be a fan of the Coen brothers' films, but I appreciated them, as well as good film in general, a lot more after reading this book.

The amount of insight author Rowell has into the Coens' films is amazing. As I read through each chapter, I was stunned by how much in the films I had "missed." Rowell's analysis reveals the numerous layers of meaning that are embodied in the films. She covers subjects as diverse as politics, religion and philosophy, art and music, and race and class. She illuminates the context of the Coens' works in the history of film, and points out the numerous allusions to and borrowings from previous films, including their own. I was truly impressed by the scope of the analysis and the thoroughness of the research conducted.

All this is written in a lively style and well organized format that can engage anyone ranging from a casual moviegoer to a scholar of film. Rowell's clever word play throughout the text add to the delight.

I recommend viewing a film first, and then reading the relevant chapter in the book to be wowed by all the things you missed. Then watch the film again!
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By David C. Stuart on April 22, 2008
Format: Paperback
As a long time Coen brothers fan I thought I understood their movies and their motivations. I felt very proud of myself as I sat in the dark, staring up at the screen, smiling at the subtle jokes and references in their films I was certain few others "got." I felt equally certain I understood the full depths of the Coen's writing and filmmaking.

After reading Ms. Rowell's delightful and intensively researched book, I suddenly discover I was only dipping my toe into the shallow end of the pool (and unlike the frozen lakes in Fargo), what a warm inviting pool it is.

Accessible and thoroughly researched, Ms. Rowell uncovers mysteries in the Coen's works that would make Marge Gunderson proud. Her succinct style pulls the reader along in much the same way the Coen's pull us along in their films -- with twists and turns, jabs and feignts, wit and winks. Yet always it is factual and informative.

Her insight is not just limited to each individual film. As we read through the chapters we begin to see how interconnected the Coen's works are to each other. This book, like the Coen's body of work, is more than meets the eye and far more than the sum of it's parts.

If you're a Coen Brothers fan... a film fan... a reading fan... a fan of mysteries examined and solved, take a peak. When you're finished go out to a nice party. I promise someone extremely attractive in that well-read, down-to-earth, likes both football and Faulkner kind of way will be most impressed with your insight... most impressed.

Just remember to (eventually) give credit where it's due.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Steve Mcintosh on November 11, 2010
Format: Paperback
I LOVE almost all of the Coen Bros' films. I understood that they were "deep" in many ways, but boy was this book a humbling experience. The author goes through each film (from Blood Simple to Lady Killers- being the latest film at the time this book was published) with a fine-toothed comb and dissects every character, plot twist, and production note to get at the what the Coens are really saying in their films. There's a lot going on. The only thing I was disappointed with was that it did not cover No Country for Old Men or Burn After Reading or, now that I'm typing this review, A Serious Man. But this obviously isn't the author's fault. Great book. If your into the Coens, check out this book.
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Excellent summaries and elucidations of all the Coen brothers' movies up to a few years ago (an updated edition is definitely needed!). Very well written, with much wordplay, sure to be enjoyed by connoisseurs of Coenesque style.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Simon Barrett on February 21, 2014
Format: Paperback
Do the Coen bros' films invite such interminable deconstruction? Maybe if you are studying film - and maybe not even then..
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