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The Brothers Grim: The Films of Ethan and Joel Coen Paperback – June 1, 2007
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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 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.
Top Customer Reviews
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!
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I had to read this book for a class and found it incredibly dense and unreadable for someone who struggles to get enough sleep.Published 18 months ago by Ziln