Blood Simple, 1984
Dir: Joel Coen (and Ethan Coen)
June 20, 2009
Netflix Wakefield MA
The Coen's first feature film is a perfect example how to do more with less, and how to jump out of the blocks in your film career with a blue ribbon, which the Coen's did of course. The neo-noir crime caper is certainly not the most heady film, but in the great tradition of independent cinema, it it shot great, the super-16mm film is used to great effect, and the acting is fantastic.
The Texas setting is a huge part of the film, and the restlessness of the Old West propels the characters to make decisions that spirals into chaos. Ray (John Getz) is a bar manager who has an affair with his boss' wife (Frances McDormand) and starts woefully misinterpreting his increasingly complex circumstances. The boss, America's hairiest man ever: Dan Hedaya, gets a private investigator (M. Emmet Walsh) to do a little extra dirty work. Unbeknownst to everyone, the PI has a plan of his own. Walsh pretty much steals the show in every scene he is in, and is pretty much the only one who knows the score the entire movie. By the end of the film, everyone is confused and completely wrong about what has happened, and Ray's decision to "cover" for his lover completely backfires.
You can tell that the budget on the film is small, and that it was definitely shot in the 80s, but it still sets up the Coen style and the great camera work that is synonymous with all their films. The last shot, of the underside of a sink, with all the complex piping running down from a simple drain, exemplifies this very well.
So it's a good film, noir-ish in it's way, that twists and turns and begins the Coens' lyrical flair that really hits its stride at Miller's Crossing. Big thumbs up for THE FOUR TOPS in the soundtrack for sure.