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The hard-boiled, often gruesome black comedy Blood Simple, the debut offering from the Minnesota-born brothers Joel and Ethan Coen, premieres on January 18, 1985. The film told the story of Julian Marty (played by Dan Hedaya), a bar owner who hires a private detective (M. Emmett Walsh) to follow his wife (Frances McDormand). When the detective finds out that Marty’s wife is two-timing him with a handsome bartender (John Getz), Marty hires the detective to kill the pair.
The offspring of two university professors, Joel and Ethan Coen were just 29 and 26 years old, respectively, when they made Blood Simple. They wrote the screenplay together, and Joel, a graduate of New York University’s film school, was given a director credit while Ethan served as the producer. (At the time, guild rules prohibited giving a joint directing credit; on their later films, the brothers are both listed as directors.) Blood Simple was also the first film featuring the work of the cinematographer Barry Sonnenfeld, who later became a noted director (Men in Black) himself, and of McDormand, Joel Coen’s wife (they married in 1984).
Shot in Texas on a low budget, mostly with money from Minneapolis investors, Blood Simple won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, which had recently been taken over by Robert Redford’s Sundance Institute and is now held in Park City, Utah, every January. Building on the buzz of that award, the entertainment media went crazy over the two young brothers, comparing their debut with the work of such luminaries as Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock and Sergio Leone. Pauline Kael of The New Yorker was one of the dissenting voices amid the praise, writing that “Joel and Ethan Coen may be entrepreneurial heroes, but they’re not moviemaker heroes. Blood Simple has no openness–it doesn’t breathe.”
After writing the screenplay for the Sam Raimi-directed thriller Crimewave, the Coens returned to directing with the outlandish comedy Raising Arizona (1987), which had a lighter tone than Blood Simple and appealed more to a mass audience. After Barton Fink (1991) and The Hudsucker Proxy (1994), the brothers raised their profile (while preserving their offbeat, gruesome sense of style) with the success of Fargo (1996), which earned McDormand an Oscar, for Best Actress, and the Coens another, for Best Original Screenplay.
Though movies like the cult hit The Big Lebowski (1998) and O, Brother Where Art Thou? (2000) earned praise from critics and the devotion of Coen fans, their next several films, The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001), Intolerable Cruelty (2003) and The Ladykillers (2004) failed to impress either group. In 2007, however, the Coens returned with their most critically acclaimed success yet, the gritty Western No Country for Old Men, starring Josh Brolin, Tommy Lee Jones and Javier Bardem. The film earned eight Academy Award nominations and won four Oscars, including statues for the Coens for Best Director (they were the first directing team ever to win an Academy Award), Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture. Bardem took home the fourth gold statuette, for Best Supporting Actor.
The brothers' later films include Burn After Reading (2008), A Serious Man (2009), True Grit (2010), Inside Llewyn Davis (2013), Hail, Caesar! (2016) and The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018), which earned three Academy Award nominations.
The Coens’ magnificent noir debut Blood Simple returns again to theaters
Every 16 years (at least so far), the Coen brothers’ 1984 debut, Blood Simple, gets a theatrical re-release. Back in 2000, the marketing hook was a so-called “director’s cut,” though Joel and Ethan had encountered no interference regarding the original release they were just a bit embarrassed, in retrospect, by what they perceived as their amateurish touch in certain spots, and re-edited the film in order to obscure or remove those alleged infelicities. Whether artists should ever “improve” work they presented as complete many years earlier is a contentious subject—see, for example, The People Vs. George Lucas—but the Coens have clearly decided to stick with their revised cut, as that’s what’s rolling back into theaters this week, showcasing a new 4K restoration. (It’ll also be the sole version included in a forthcoming Criterion Blu-ray edition.) While purists may grumble—and astute readers may detect a grumbling subtext to this very paragraph—any excuse to see the Coens’ magnificently moody neo-noir on the big screen is welcome.
As is often the case in film noir, neo- or otherwise, infidelity sets the plot in motion. Weary of Marty (Dan Hedaya), her abusive husband, Abby (Frances McDormand, in her screen debut) has been carrying on an affair with Ray (John Getz), one of the bartenders at a tavern Marty owns. Unbeknownst to Abby and Ray, however, Marty suspects their relationship, and hires a private detective, Loren Visser (M. Emmet Walsh), to confirm it. Visser subsequently agrees to kill the cheating lovers, and provides photographic evidence that the deed is done. Unbeknownst to Marty, however, the photos Visser shows him have been carefully doctored, and Abby and Ray are still very much alive. Several more permutations of “unbeknownst to X, however” then follow, as all four of the characters confidently make decisions based on false information and/or mistaken assumptions. Most thrillers keep viewers in the dark about certain details for a while, in order to create mystery or suspense. Blood Simple, by contrast, reserves various elements of surprise for the increasingly hapless folks on screen. Only the audience has a clear picture of what’s really going down.
Decades later, the Coens would employ that same basic idea to comic effect in Burn After Reading . Here, their sense of humor comes through in extremely bitter irony—the movie’s final line is priceless—and a few knowing visual jokes, like a shot in which the camera, traveling the length of Marty’s bar at drink level, finds its path blocked by the head of a passed-out patron and serenely glides up and over the obstacle, continuing on its way. (Cinematographer Barry Sonnenfeld later became a notable director in his own right, best known for helming the Men In Black franchise.) The brothers instantly demonstrate their knack for coaxing beautifully offbeat performances from their actors, too Walsh in particular is delectably sleazy, speaking his lines in a sneering Texas drawl that makes every word sound as if it’s turned rancid. And then there’s Carter Burwell’s score—his very first—which lacks the grandeur of his orchestral work in later Coen films like Fargo, but manages to evoke a palpable sense of dread with a simple piano theme. Insofar as their name signifies an aesthetic, the Coen brothers were fully formed right from the get-go.
That makes it all the more maddening, for the purists (grumble grumble), that it remains impossible to see Blood Simple as originally released, unless one can somehow watch one of the 35mm prints struck in 1984. Due to home-video licensing issues, the VHS and laserdisc releases substitute a truly lame version of “I’m A Believer” for the Four Tops’ “It’s The Same Old Song,” heard several times during the film. That was corrected in the 2000 re-release (which is what’s currently available on DVD and Blu-ray), but at the cost of Joel and Ethan’s retroactive cosmetic surgery, visible again in this latest incarnation. The changes themselves are quite minor, scarcely detectable to anyone who hasn’t committed Blood Simple to memory, and they do improve the movie a bit, honestly their main effect is to significantly reduce the screen time of an actor named Samm-Art Williams, who’s definitely the weak link in the cast (and hasn’t acted since 1991, according to the IMDB). Still, it’s the principle of the thing. Artists sprucing up their work many years later, merely out of vanity—as opposed to a genuine director’s cut that restores alterations imposed by a studio—is the equivalent of digitally altering old photos to make yourself look less dorky. Blood Simple didn’t need that sort of hindsight tweaking. It’s a trailblazing masterpiece in any form.
The Coen Brothers' Brilliant Debut BLOOD SIMPLE Is Now Streaming On HBO Platforms
There have been some terrific debut films from directors over the years. RESERVOIR DOGS. CITIZEN KANE. BEING JOHN MALKOVICH. DISTRICT 9. Some never reach the same heights as their first movie and others use it as a springboard to a legendary career. And plenty of directors need a movie or three before they leave us with something memorable.
Like Michael Mann and THIEF in 1981, Joel and Ethan Coen were pretty goddamn great right out of the gate and just got better and better at making movies. BLOOD SIMPLE, which the brothers directed, wrote, edited, and produced on a $1.5M budget that they raised via a mere trailer in 1982, is an excellent, twisty modern day noir that gives audiences a peek of what would come from these media-shy siblings over the ensuing decades.
Packed with backstabbing, laughs when you don't expect them, duplicitous lovers, some blood, and a stellar cast (including Frances McDormand's film debut), this 1984 release set and filmed in Texas remains among the Coens' best. You'll never look at Dickie Dunn the same way again.
Simply, if you're a fan of these guys and haven't seen it yet.
On another note, HBO MAX debuted today to quite a bit of confused and/or pissed-off customers. Confused because they can't figure out how to get on their HBO MAX app or if they're even eligible. And pissed-off because they mistakenly assumed the HBO MAX app would go live on their Roku or Fire at 3AM today. SONK! HBO still hasn't even hammered out a deal with the two companies that represent 70 fucking % of streaming devices. Jesus, was Quagmire running this shit?
Still, once you get it figured out, it's appears to be a pretty damn good addition to the streaming stable that will slot in nicely between Netflix and Disney+. Tons of movies from CASABLANCA to CRAZY RICH ASIANS. Shows you forgot about ("America Undercover"!) and new shows you can discover. Or you can just binge "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" all day. And paying for Netflix/Prime/Hulu/D+/HBOMAX is still way cheaper than paying for cable or satellite. Those fuckers didn't want to give us a la carte. But the Internet bitch-slapped them and gave it to us anyways.
DVD [ edit | edit source ]
The 2001 DVD release features several spoofs of DVD special features. One is an introduction to the film by fictional film historian "Mortimer Young", who claims that the Director's Cut removes some of "the boring bits" and adds other parts. (This was also included in the theatrical release of the Director's Cut.)
It also includes an audio commentary by "Kenneth Loring," the fictional artistic director of the equally fictional "Forever Young Films." Loring offers several entirely spurious "facts": for example, he claims that the scene with Ray and Abby driving in the rain talking about Marty was acted out in reverse as well as upside down, in order to synch the headlights passing the car just as certain lines were said (he claims that filming the scene backwards and upside down was the logical choice to get the timing right, and that the actors are wearing hair spray to keep their hair pointing "down"). Elsewhere in the commentary, he claims that in scenes with both dialogue and music, the actors simply mouth the words and record them in post-production, so as not to interfere with the music that Marty's dog is animatronic that the sweat on various actors is "movie sweat", gathered from the flanks of wikipedia:Palomino horses that Fred Astaire and Rosemary Clooney were at one time intended for the film and that a fly buzzing about is not real, but the product of computer generated imagery. "Loring" is voiced by actor Jim Piddock, using a script written by the Coen brothers.
Frances McDormand isn't guaranteed roles in Joel Coen's movies
Although they've collaborated many times over the years, one of the biggest hurdles the couple had to overcome revolved around McDormand automatically being cast in every Coen Brothers movie. As she admitted to Vogue, when their third movie, Miller's Crossing, came along and Marcia Gay Harden was cast as Verna over her, McDormand was heated, wondering, "why isn't this me?" The character actor was an Oscar nominee by then and felt as though she deserved it.
Regardless, she acknowledged, "That was part of my learning process and part of our learning process privately as a couple. We both had to work through that. You're not going to get a role every time." Likewise, when Joel Coen was suggested for Frances McDormand's onscreen husband in Nomadland, she put her foot down, arguing, "I have to believe that it's not just a documentary of me. I did create a character, just like I've created myself in 63 years, too" (via The New York Times).
The Coen Bros. Split Up for ‘Macbeth,’ and It Feels as Strange for Them as You Think
What does it feel like for the Coen Brothers to split up after over three decades of making movies together? According to their longtime composer Carter Burwell, the directors are feeling strange about it. Joel Coen and Joel Coen alone is behind the upcoming A24 drama “The Tragedy of Macbeth,” based on William Shakespeare’s play. Burwell tells Collider in a new interview the production was two thirds of the way into filming when the pandemic shut down production. The composer admits its a bit weird to be working through the creative process with just one Coen brother.
“It&rsquos a little different, even just the conversations I&rsquove had,” Burwell said. “Yeah, it&rsquos a little different to have one of the brothers there. And I know Ethan, I saw him towards the end of last year and Joel was out prepping the shoot in LA, he said it felt strange that Joel is out there getting ready to make a movie. But Ethan didn&rsquot want to do it. He wants to do other things. So it&rsquos going to be a little bit different for all of us, I think it&rsquos safe to say, but I think it&rsquos still going to be a very recognizable voice that you&rsquore familiar with, a look that you&rsquore familiar with, I think. I think you&rsquoll find that.”
As for what moviegoers can expect from “The Tragedy of Macbeth,” Burwell teased, “We all know the story. So the surprises won&rsquot be in the story, but it&rsquos about the way it&rsquos shot and the things we choose to accentuate, and the angle we take with it.”
Joel Coen said earlier this year his “Macbeth” is being envisioned as a “ticking-clock thriller.” Burwell’s collaborations with the Coen Brothers date back to their 1984 feature debut “Blood Simple.” “Macbeth” is the first feature film to come from just one of the Coen brothers. While Joel received solo directorial credit on the majority of their early films, that’s only because of a now-defunct DGA rule that prohibited the brothers from sharing credit. Joel would get directing credit and Ethan would take producer credit, but both would be involved with the filmmaking process. “Macbeth” marks the first time the Coen brothers have split, but Burwell stresses it’s all amicable.
“Macbeth” stars Oscar winners Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand in the lead roles and also has the backing of producer Scott Rudin. A24 has not announced a release date for the project.
This Article is related to: Film and tagged Carter Burwell, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, Macbeth
Revisiting Blood Simple, The Brilliant Debut of The Coen Brothers
This past weekend, the Provincetown Film Festival screened a new 4K restoration by Janus Films of the Coen Brothers’ debut feature Blood Simple. In September, this restoration will be released on Blu-Ray by the Criterion Collection, but patience is less virtuous when the alternative means a jaunt to Provincetown and the opportunity to see John Waters riding around on an antique bicycle (it is, as it sounds, a delightful sight). But without further ado, as pleasant a distraction as the surroundings and general vibe were and are, to business: the restoration is a very good one and preserves the film’s tactile grit and delicious nastiness. Ethan Coen claimed in introductory remarks at the screening that he and Joel “didn’t know what we were doing” when they made Blood Simple, which may be the case but the film itself betrays very little sign of authorial cluelessness. It’s one of the most accomplished debuts on record, and one which foretold a number of the Coens’ recurring preoccupations in their subsequent thirty-plus year career.
The title comes from Dashiell Hammett’s Red Harvest, a description of the addled, over-stressed state induced by dwelling too long in a violent milieu. The Coens’ ostensible protagonist, Ray (John Getz), is the archetypical naïve, nominally butch dickhead film noir and its literary precursors lived to torture. A bartender, Ray is having an affair with his boss’s wife (Frances McDormand), without even really bothering to hide it from his boss (Dan Hedaya). This excessive cockiness sets events in motion that eventually let loose a drawling, Stetsoned agent of chaos (M. Emmett Walsh) upon, well, all of them. The entire film is an extrapolation of the title state of mind, while also physically manifesting a far more graphic style of violence than Hammett’s. The Coens dole out blood the way Hammett did words: economically and with memorable panache. Their influences certainly extend beyond Hammett, but his impact on the Coens seems formative, especially in their earlier years, as Miller’s Crossing tips its hat early and often to Hammett’s The Glass Key.
A great deal of the writing on the Coens over the years, the above included, focuses on their literary influences, but what was particularly striking about this viewing of Blood Simple was Barry Sonnenfeld’s cinematography. His moves have a tendency to mimic the emotional agitation of a given scene, and his lighting embraces a grimy, earthy murk that externalizes the internal moral turpitude of the characters. Far from the Coens’ reputation for making cold, austere films, Blood Simple is vividly physical. The smell of the blood wafts off the screen. The borderline non sequitur moments in which the film nods explicitly toward the horror genre nod specifically to the Coens’ friend and collaborator Sam Raimi’s approach. It should be clear that these brief moments are in the service of Blood Simple’s repeated emphasis that indulgence in violence is not a thing that be turned on and off instantaneously. The stink of blood lingers long after it’s shed, and the emotional stink of shedding it lingers just as long.
6 Filmmaking Tips From The Coen Brothers
Revisiting Blood Simple after many years – and, indeed, for the first time in its proper form, as the first time I saw it on VHS it had a bunch of awkward replacement music due to rights issues – it’s surprising how often the Coens themselves revisited it, trying new iterations in subsequent, more polished, films. No Country For Old Men, for one prominent example, employs a lot of the same sparingness with dialogue, Southwestern neo-noir setting and compositions, and variations on the idea of a reified agent of chaos. The last recurs quite often, in varying forms, in the Coens’ filmography, from Randall “Tex” Cobb in Raising Arizona to John Goodman in Barton Fink to Peter Stormare in Fargo. Depending on the film, the figure’s level of verbosity may vary, although the murderousness does not. M. Emmett Walsh’s character in Blood Simple narrates the opening minutes of the film in a kind of drowsy, meretricious folksiness, which his later machinations reveal to be abject bullshit. In this regard, he establishes a type the Coens would employ again, and often. Oddly enough Ray, the “good” guy, figures far less prominently in their future work, if at all (the manner in which he exits the film could double as a statement of purpose from the filmmakers). The well-intentioned doofus does not, in this vision of the world, win anything. (Extratextual though it may be, Frances McDormand’s marriage to Joel Coen also ties in with her ultimate role in the film and can serve as a symbol of what kind of characters and actions the filmmakers are more interested in.)
While tempting to continue, there’s a certain point at which analysis has to give way to pure, experiential present tense with a film like Blood Simple, and indeed, with the Coens as artists in general. Their films are substantial, and they are essential figures in American cinema, but ultimately they make wildly entertaining movies. Their style is substance. Their art derives in great part to their films being things you watch with your whole body there’s no checking your brain at the door or tamping down your fidgeting while your brain processes all the egghead stuff. The Coen brothers – more floral language fails me – fucking own. And it all started with Blood Simple.
4 Darkest: A Serious Man
2009's A Serious Man isn't a violent film, but that doesn't mean it isn't one of the darkest and bleakest films in the Coen brothers' catalog. The story centers around Larry Gopnik, played by Michael Stuhlbarg. Throughout the film, his life unwinds in just about every way possible.
His marriage is failing, his unemployed brother is forced to move in with him, and his career is being undermined by a mysterious saboteur. He's also made aware of some potentially serious health problems, and as the film ends, a tornado bears down on his son's school. There are several ways to interpret A Serious Man: as a religious metaphor, a nihilistic parable, or perhaps even a pitch-black absurdist farce. Either way, it's one "seriously" bleak film.
The Coen Brothers’ ‘Blood Simple’ Beginnings
Woman cheats on husband. Husband seeks revenge. Revenge goes wrong.
These plot points exist in any number of noir tales. Look within the spines of books by great noir novelists like Dashiell Hammett, James Ellroy, and Elmore Leonard: some version of them will crop up. The great noir directors, from Alfred Hitchcock to Jean-Pierre Melville, explore morality’s gray spaces with similar ingenuity. At its base, Blood Simple is built on those noir plot features, and many other tropes of the genre: heavy shadowing, bloody violence, and existential despair. But in the hands of the then-young directors Joel and Ethan Coen, Blood Simple evolves from what could have been a run-of-the-mill tale of betrayal and blood into an oddball mélange of crime cinema, horror, and black comedy.
The Coens would venture into stranger territory (The Big Lebowski, The Hudsucker Proxy) later in their career, not to mention more refined explorations of film noir (Miller’s Crossing, The Man Who Wasn’t There), but in Blood Simple the brothers proved themselves to be directors in which conventions like genre are but putty to be stretched about any number of directions. Anyone looking for a noir fix will be happy with Blood Simple, but there’s plenty that’s not simple in this non-audacious debut. The devil, an omnipresent figure in the noir universe, is in the details.
The story of Blood Simple is just that: bloody, and simple. After becoming dissatisfied in her marriage, Abby (Frances McDormand, a frequent Coen player) begins a relationship with Ray (John Getz), a man who works at her husband Julian’s (Dan Hedaya) neon-lit Texas bar. Blood Simple begins with an ominous sequence: as Abby and Ray drive down a lonesome country road, Ray’s windshield is intermittently illuminated with the headlights of oncoming cars, which in their brilliance look as if they will overtake Abby and Ray — but they never do. Speeding into the night, these soon-to-be lovers are always on the precipice of destruction.
The sequence ends with Abby and Ray beginning their affair in a motel room striped with shadows. Not far from that consummation, Julian broods. He calls the hotel room the next morning, hanging up before saying a word. As soon as he intuits the betrayal at hand, Julian summons the private investigator Loren Visser (M. Emmett Walsh), the cro-magnon iteration of Coen eccentricity. The camera first introduces Visser to the audience through a shot of his cowboy hat set on top of a desk, one of the many instances of Blood Simple‘s usage of synecdoche via mise-en-scene.
It would be proper etiquette to announce spoiler alerts ahead, but in the world of noir it’s safe to assume that many if not most of the main characters will die. As much as the Coen brothers toy with many of the genre’s characteristics in Blood Simple, they also know the rules of the genre’s game, and the eerie conclusion to this film follows the dictums of noir: blood must be shed, and few if any can survive. Julian initially hires Visser to trail Abby and Ray, but in the end he asks the private investigator to perform a more lethal task: the execution of his wife and her lover. Julian’s only mistake in this execution order is assuming that Visser has his best interests at heart: after duping Julian into believing he has performed the execution, Visser pumps him full of lead.
The normally meticulous and plain-spoken Visser leaves one loose but vital thread in his killing of Julian. To ensure Julian’s alibi, Visser tells him to leave town and head to the costal city of Corpus Christi, where he should “go fishing” while the hit is performed. Julian returns with a few fish strung together on a rope — which in the Coen’s subtle scene staging, foreshadow the deaths to come in the film. As he sets the fish atop his desk, he covers up Visser’s engraved lighter, which like the killer’s hat is a synecdoche for the killer himself. Despite the lighter’s iconic value, Visser quickly forgets it after he shoots Julian in cold blood, in his mind cauterizing any loose ends. For the remainder of the movie the mystery lingers: when will anyone lift up the fish carcasses and find the incriminating evidence underneath?
The Coens let the camera linger over the lighter’s steely glint beneath the fish, the grenade pin that threatens to blow up Julian’s murder. Yet when Blood Simple comes to its conclusion following 95 zippy minutes, the abandoned lighter is not the source of Visser’s undoing. Abby, with the help of a pocketknife and a well-timed gunshot, brings about his death at the film’s conclusion. Writing for the Atlantic, Christopher Orr notes that the lighter is a “a red herring literally hidden under fish.” The Coen brothers effectively capture the spirit of film noir with Blood Simple, but more than anything else they emphasize the attention to detail, a feature necessary to one of noir’s primary figures — the detective — that also regularly goes overlooked by the characters in the noir genre. Pay attention to the wrong thing at the wrong instant, and you’re likely to end up in a grave of someone else’s making. The fishy foreshadowing that lays atop the lighter is actually the more valuable piece of information for the unfolding of the narrative. The obvious clue obscures the slimy hint of what’s to come.
Character and plot-wise, there isn’t much going for Blood Simple, but the Coens bring this bare-bones story to life with all of the aforementioned mise-en-scene misdirection, as well as some sterling cinematphotography by Barry Sonnenfeld. The shots of Visser’s bullets boring through a wall of an empty room, of Ray burying the almost undead Julian in an anonymous Texas farm field, and of signature Texas locations like Austin’s Mount Bonnell are important shots in the Coens’ early career. Viewers are given a unique look into the composition of these shots in the characteristically outstanding bonus features to this Blu-ray edition of Blood Simple provided by the Criterion Collection.
Augmenting a series of interviews with cast and crew is a filmed conversation between the Coens and Sonnenfeld, wherein the directors and cinemaphotographer draw over a continuous commentary of the film with Telestrator technology. (Those who have seen football commentators draw lines over a slow-mo replay of a football game will be familiar with this software.) This allows the three filmmakers to pinpoint the most distinctive elements of Blood Simple, well over 30 years after its creation. The amount of information about the movie’s production that the Coens and Sonnenfeld are able to recall after that time is remarkable. Criterion’s interactive form of director commentary on this special release is one of the strongest special features it has introduced, a considerable feat, given how high a bar it has already set for the home video market.
The seemingly quotidian final shot of Blood Simple — a floor-up view of sink pipes from the perspective of the dying Visser — is at first a strange place to conclude this film. But it’s the left pipe that Visser gazes upon, which bears a striking resemblance to the barrel of a Colt .45, that delivers one of the central messages of this movie, one which links it right back into the noir pantheon. No matter who you are, you’re liable to end up on the wrong end of a gun. The Coen brothers are hardly the first artists to make that point, but with Blood Simple they do so with a cinematic inventiveness that has since become their calling card. Blood Simple may not be quotable like Lebowski or Oscar-winning like No Country for Old Men, but it’s an indispensable feature in the catalogue of two masterful filmmakers.
‘Blood Simple’: New Criterion Collection Video Essay Explores Storyboarding Behind Coen Brothers’ Debut Feature
For fans of filmmaking dynamic duo Joel and Ethan Coen, the news that the Criterion Collection had restored the brothers’ debut feature, the wicked 1984 crime drama “Blood Simple,” was reason enough to get excited, but that the new release comes with a bevy of special features (as is the Collection’s wont) was almost too wonderful to be believed. In celebration and anticipation of this week’s release of the restoration, the Criterion Collection has released one of the package’s special additions, a clever, meticulous and dead entertaining look at the storyboards of the classic feature.
The new video essay also gives some wonderful insight into the craftsmanship of the brothers, long a staple of their works. During the course of the film’s restoration, photographer Grant Delin created the video essay, one that compares scenes from the film to their original storyboards and includes commentary from the Coens, Barry Sonnenfeld and actress Frances McDormand.
The new Criterion Collection restoration uses the original 35 mm negative of the film, which was scanned in 16-bit 4K resolution. The Coens, alongside director of photography Barry Sonnenfeld, supervised and approved the color correction and restoration. It will be available on both Blu-ray and DVD tomorrow, September 20 (more details are below). Check out the video essay:
The new Criterion Collection restoration of “Blood Simple” will feature a new, restored 4K digital transfer, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray a new conversation between Sonnenfeld and the Coens about the film’s look, featuring Telestrator video illustrations a new conversation between author Dave Eggers and the Coens about the film’s production, from inception to release new interviews with composer Carter Burwell, sound mixer Skip Lievsay, and actors Frances McDormand and M. Emmet Walsh trailers and a new essay by novelist and critic Nathaniel Rich.
Both the Blu-ray and the 2-DVD editions of the restoration will be available starting on Tuesday, September 20.