This is Coenesque: on the Coen brothers and their influence on cinema

A still from Fargo

A still from Fargo

As the fourth season of Fargo , starring comedian Chris Rock in a new avatar, bows this week, I couldn’t help but think back on the influence the film in general and the Coen brothers in particular had on some of the recent films I had watched.

I wondered idly why, unlike Tarantinoesque, the term Coenesque doesn’t exist. A cursory Google disabused me of that notion in microseconds. “Reminiscent of the films of Joel and Ethan Coen, known for their dark humour, genre-bending, mannered dialogue, and vivid sense of time and place,” is how that emporium of knowledge, Wiktionary, describes it.

Now we have that out of the way, let us proceed to filmmaker Dominik Moll, who first came to global attention in 2000 with Harry, He’s Here To Help , that was variously described as Hitchcockesque or Chabrolesque, after the French master of suspense. Working again with frequent writing collaborator Gilles Marchand, Moll created Only The Animals (2019), that is now available to digitally buy or rent in all the major global outlets. Apart from a beginning that looks parachuted in from another film, the movie can be described as Coenesque. There are vast snowy expanses, a la Fargo , and there is that now-popular-from-Nordic-noir trope of a missing woman outside a small village. The film is also divided into chapters with each one told from the point of view of a different character. Just when you think that all this looks depressingly familiar, Moll and Marchand take off the gloves and you’re in the middle of a thrillingly original ride. That beginning suddenly makes sense as later on in the film it expands to a stunning segment that is far removed from the bleak Coenesque landscape. And please watch it till the end of the end. There is a terrific twist in store. The film was nominated at France’s Cesars, Antalya and Venice and won a brace of awards at Tokyo.

A still from Beasts Clutching At Straws

A still from Beasts Clutching At Straws

Also Coenesque, if you will, is Korean filmmaker Kim Yong-hoon’s début feature, Beasts Clutching At Straws , that premièred at Rotterdam and won the special jury award. Based on a novel by Japanese writer Keisuke Kone, Yong-hoon adapted it to a Korean milieu. Having worked with leading Korean studio CJ E&M, he had access to and signed top stars Jeon Do-yeon, Jung Woo-sung and Youn Yuh-jeong. The focal point of the film is a bag full of cash and the lengths that a disparate range of characters with different needs go to obtain it. The trope is old, but the treatment is new. And this being modern Korean cinema, it revels in gore. Again, wait till the end of the end for a twist.

Meanwhile, after three decades of working together as a team, Joel Coen is making Macbeth on his own, without any involvement from Ethan Coen. Apparently Ethan just didn’t want to do it. Let’s hope that it is a temporary separation. Meanwhile, Macbeth , with a cast of Denzel Washington, Frances McDormand and Brendan Gleeson is a prospect in 2021 that we should not wash our hands off.

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Printable version | Aug 13, 2022 2:23:27 am |