Register  |   Log In  |  
Sign up to our weekly newsletter    
Search   
Empire Magazine and iPad
Follow Me on Pinterest YouTube Tumblr
Empire
Trending On Empire
The Big 2015 Movie Preview
The 50 Best Films Of 2014
Review Of The Year 2014
Subscribe: The January Sale!
Try 3 issues of Empire magazine for just £1
Must-Have Movie Collectibles
Bid on some classic memorabilia
Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

BOOK DETAILS
Released
01 September 2012
Author
Ian Nathan
Publisher
Cahiers du Cinema

LATEST BOOK REVIEWS
Altman
4 Star Empire Rating
On Set With John Carpenter
4 Star Empire Rating
Harry Potter: The Creature Vault
3 Star Empire Rating
As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales From The Making Of The Princess Bride
2 Star Empire Rating
Battlestar Galactica Vault
4 Star Empire Rating



5 STAR REVIEWS
Star Wars Costumes: The Original Trilogy
5 Star Empire Rating
Martin Scorsese: A Retrospective
5 Star Empire Rating
Joss Whedon: Geek King Of The Universe
5 Star Empire Rating
Art Of John Alvin, The
5 Star Empire Rating
Making Of The Return Of The Jedi, The
5 Star Empire Rating

Masters Of Cinema: Ethan And Joel Coen


submit to reddit

Review
You’d imagine the latest in Cahiers Du Cinéma’s study of great directors was both a gift to its author — Empire’s Ian Nathan, in case you hadn’t noticed — and something of a nuisance. On the one hand, the richness of Joel and Ethan Coen’s catalogue is undeniable, taking in hits (Raising Arizona, True Grit, Fargo), flops (The Hudsucker Proxy, The Ladykillers) and one bona fide movie cult (The Big Lebowski), not to mention the greatest gangster pic of the ’90s that wasn’t GoodFellas (Miller’s Crossing). On the other hand, the brothers themselves are, to use Nathan’s adjective — “awkward”. Thus his brisk, compulsive journey through their career is defined as “a quest to identify ‘Coenesque’, by divining answers from a body of work where the very elusiveness of answers is a theme, and the creators are saying nothing.” Not least in terms of speculating about his own hypothesis, Nathan is resoundingly successful.

Some of it is inherently speculative (as it would be for any writer, saving the Coens themselves), but there’s no sense of shooting in the dark. Nathan’s recognition of Coen themes and visual rhythms throughout their 15 films comes anchored by deep knowledge of their inspirations (from the crime novels of Cain, Hammett and Chandler to the cartoons of Chuck Jones), and is deftly connected to clues from their personal history.

Gripes by critics of the Coens’ chilly style are mentioned but not indulged, yet this is no easy ride. Nathan applies due disdain to the likes of Intolerable Cruelty and The Ladykillers. About the latter, he notes, “If the Coens have a single purpose, it is to transform all genres into comic noir... How do you transform a black comedy into a black comedy?”

Perhaps we will never truly ‘know’ Ethan and Joel Coen. But, as much as the Masters Of Cinema series is into the whole brevity thing, by the time this pursuit for ‘Coenesque’ ends you’ll feel you know them much better — despite Nathan’s own admission that, by definition, there is no final definition. As he concludes, their work genuinely speaks for them. Even if the Coens themselves would tell you not to listen.


Reviewed by Dan Jolin

Write Your Review
To write your review please login or register.


CURRENT HIGHLIGHTS
Jessica Chastain Takes The IMDbunker
The Most Violent Year star takes our most random quiz

Five Impressive Oscar Isaac Roles You Didn't Realise Were Oscar Isaac
Welcome to Oscar season...

Johnny Depp And Paul Bettany Talk Mortdecai
How good is your 'Mortdecai face'?

Fables: A Primer
An introduction to Bill Willingham’s wonderfully dark fairy-tale world

12 Hitchcock Remakes Ranked From Best To Worst
Lifeboat in space, anyone?

From Mission: Impossible To Mortdecai: Writer/Director David Koepp Talks Screenwriting
What would you do if you were in charge of the Spider-Man franchise?

Ghost In The Shell: A Crash Course
Everything you need to know about Scarlett Johansson’s anime remake

Subscribe to Empire magazine
Get 12 Issues Of Empire For Only £25!

Get exclusive subscriber-only covers each month!

Subscribe today

Subscribe to Empire iPad edition
Get The Empire iPad Edition Today

Subscribe and save maney on annual digital subscription

Subscribe today
Buy single issues

Get 12 issues of Empire for just £25!
Get exclusive subscriber-only covers each month Subscribe today!
Empire's Film Studies 101 Series
Everything you ever wanted to know about filmmaking but were afraid to ask...
The Empire iPad Edition
With exclusive extras, interactive features, trailers and much more! Download now
Home  |  News  |  Blogs  |  Reviews  |  Future Films  |  Features  |  Interviews  |  Images  |  Competitions  |  Forum  |  iPad  |  Podcast  |  Magazine Contact Us  |  Empire FAQ  |  Subscribe To Empire  |  Register
© Bauer Consumer Media Ltd  |  Legal Info  |  Editorial Complaints  |  Privacy Policy  |  Bauer Entertainment Network
Bauer Consumer Media Ltd (company number 01176085 and registered address 1 Lincoln Court, Lincoln Road, Peterborough, England PE1 2RF)