The Coen Brothers

Overview

Blood Simple, Barton Fink, Raising Arizona, Miller's Crossing, Fargo, Hudsucker Proxy, and The Big Lebowski - moviegoers either love the Coen brothers or they hate them. Those who love them believe they have made some of the most innovative, entertaining, and idiosyncratic films of the last 25 years. Their movies have grossed over $1 billion, and Fargo won Oscars in 1997 for Best Original Screenplay and Best Actress. Brought up in small-town America, the brothers have been making movies from the age of eight. ...

See more details below
Available through our Marketplace sellers.
Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (17) from $1.99   
  • New (2) from $22.95   
  • Used (15) from $0.00   
Close
Sort by
Page 1 of 1
Showing All
Note: Marketplace items are not eligible for any BN.com coupons and promotions
$22.95
Seller since 2009

Feedback rating:

(18)

Condition:

New — never opened or used in original packaging.

Like New — packaging may have been opened. A "Like New" item is suitable to give as a gift.

Very Good — may have minor signs of wear on packaging but item works perfectly and has no damage.

Good — item is in good condition but packaging may have signs of shelf wear/aging or torn packaging. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Acceptable — item is in working order but may show signs of wear such as scratches or torn packaging. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Used — An item that has been opened and may show signs of wear. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Refurbished — A used item that has been renewed or updated and verified to be in proper working condition. Not necessarily completed by the original manufacturer.

New
2000 Trade paperback New. No dust jacket as issued. Trade paperback (US). Glued binding. 272 p. Contains: Illustrations. Audience: General/trade.

Ships from: Toronto, Canada

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
$58.81
Seller since 2008

Feedback rating:

(213)

Condition: New

Ships from: Chicago, IL

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
Page 1 of 1
Showing All
Close
Sort by
Sending request ...

Overview

Blood Simple, Barton Fink, Raising Arizona, Miller's Crossing, Fargo, Hudsucker Proxy, and The Big Lebowski - moviegoers either love the Coen brothers or they hate them. Those who love them believe they have made some of the most innovative, entertaining, and idiosyncratic films of the last 25 years. Their movies have grossed over $1 billion, and Fargo won Oscars in 1997 for Best Original Screenplay and Best Actress. Brought up in small-town America, the brothers have been making movies from the age of eight. Joel directs; Ethan writes and collaborates with his brother in the later stages as the story develops its visual identity. The Coen brothers set the standard for creative cinema.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
As Hollywood personalities go, the Coen brothers are pretty dull. Joel and Ethan Coen hail from an ordinary, suburban, middle-class neighborhood. They were just regular guys who grew up during the 1960s watching and loving Doris Day, Jerry Lewis, Bob Hope, and all of the Dean Jones Disney films. This might seem odd considering that these are the makers of such films as Blood Simple and Miller's Crossing. However, the one thing that the Coen brothers are not is predictable. In simple, clear language, Bergan (Sergei Eisenstein; Jean Renoir) presents the Coen brothers in a rather layered fashion, gradually revealing biographical details and elements while examining their films, their filmmaking style, their inspirations, and some of the ideas behind their works. The book, arranged chronologically by film, includes a filmography with synopses, cast, and crew. With the Oscar-winning Fargo, the Coens have become two of the most interesting filmmakers working today, though they are still in the early stages of what one hopes will be long and successful careers. Bergan's biography is a welcome introduction to these distinctive filmmakers. Recommended for high school and public libraries. Julia Stump, Voorheesville P.L., NY Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Booknews
This first biography of sibling independent filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen examines their films (including an on-the-set perspective of the most recent ), their lives, and, most interestingly, their relationship and how it is reflected in their films. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781560252542
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press
  • Publication date: 7/28/2000
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 6.11 (w) x 9.28 (h) x 0.83 (d)

Read an Excerpt




Chapter One


1 The Mark of Coen


"FILM DIRECTOR JOEL COEN

SLAYS YOUNGER BROTHER ETHAN!"


DURING ONE of their writing sessions, Joel Coen (46) suddenly pulled out a gun on Ethan (43), his brother and co-creator of all their movies, and threatened to kill him. Ethan begged him not to do it. "Look into your heart," the younger man pleaded, echoing the words that John Turturro speaks when he is about to be killed in Miller's Crossing. But Joel blasted the .44 Magnum into Ethan's chest two or three rimes in the manner of some of the many violent scenes in their films. He then took Ethan's body into the country around Minneapolis, Minnesota, their home town, and was feeding it into a mechanical wood-chipper when the police caught up with him. Joel then turned the gun on himself. The motive for the killing is still unclear. Some say that Joel could hot tolerate the duality of their existence. Scrawled on a piece of paper on his desk was a quote from Edgar Allan Poe's William Wilson, a story in which a mean-spirited gambling Austrian officer murders his doppelgänger, confesses and kills himself.


You have conquered and I yield. Yet, henceforth art thou also dead—dead to the World, to Heaven, and to Hopel In me didst thou exist—and, in my death, see by this image, which is thine own, how utterly thou hast murdered thyself,


    When the quotation above was submitted to the police graphologist, it was found to have been written by Roderick Jaynes, the mysterious editor onmost of their films, and the writer of the introductions to the published scripts of Barton Fink and Miller's Crossing.

    Naturally, like most people, I was shocked by the totally unexpected fratricide. But, to be honest, as the brothers' biographer, I was secretly delighted. What a coup! Joel couldn't have timed it better. The tragic event happened just as I was completing my biography and wondering how to end it. There is never much problem in the cases where the subjects are dead, but with the living it is far more difficult because the story has not ended. This gruesome killing gave my bi-biography, or "bigraphy," just the sensationalist element it needed, a sine qua non for biographies these days. Up to that point, I had failed to dig up anything even vaguely scandalous about the brothers, though I hoped to suggest that they were abnormally close, a relationship on which new light was cast by the Coencide.

    Yet, nobody would ever have imagined that such a thing could ever have happened. There was a clue in something Joel once said when asked how the brothers determined which of them would produce and which direct. "I'm about three years older and thirty pounds heavier, and I have about three inches on Ethan in terms of reach. But then he fights real dirty. I can beat him up so I get to direct." Ethan concurred: "It's those critical three inches in reach that make the difference."

    I was reading the screaming banner headlines, when a gust of wind caught the newspaper and carried it away from me. I tried to chase it along the road, but it kept evading my grasp. And then I woke up ... I was unsure whether I was relieved or disappointed.


There's a guy in No. 7 that murdered his brother,

and says he didn't really do it, his subconscious

did it. I asked him what that meant, and

he says you got two selves, one that you know

about and the other that you don't know about,

because it's subconscious. It shook me up. Did

I really do it and not know it?


—The Postman Always Rings Twice (James M. Cain)


2 Being the Coen Brothers


MY THOUGHTS went back to the day, over a year before, when I was first commissioned to do a biography of the Coen brothers and approached them to ask if they would cooperate. It was a situation that reminded me of a cartoon I once saw of a man opening the door of his apartment to a stranger. "Excuse me," says the visitor. "You don't know me but I'm your biographer." Joel asked me, "Why would you want to write a biography of us? Listen, you've written books on Jean Renoir and Sergei Eisenstein. We can't compare to them in any way. We're boring." I assured him that I, and my potential readers, were more interested in their public lives than their private ones. After all, I wasn't writing a book on some bimbo movie star, male or female. But they were skeptical. "Actually, to tell the truth, we don't want a book written about us." "Come on," I thought, "we're not talking J.D. Salinger here!" However, there was one condition on which they would agree to cooperate, which I will come to later in this chapter.

    The Coen brothers, however reluctantly, have submitted themselves to endless interviews and photo sessions, though they are seldom seen smiling in the photos. "We're not usually in a smiling mood when we get our pictures taken," Joel explained. "It's not one of our favorite things. The best interview we ever did was with a guy from Details magazine. We did it and then he went away and must have decided we were too boring, so he just made up the entire piece himself." "I have to say," interjected Ethan, "it was a big improvement. But if we keep being interviewed, we'll never get any work done. You can print whatever you want. You don't have to confirm anything."

    Ideally, what biographers want is to enter the minds of their subjects, not literally, as in the Spike Jonze film Being John Malkovich, but in a figurative sense. "I want you to enter my mind," says cartoonist George Sanders to his "ghost" Bob Hope in That Certain Feeling. "Can I bring a toothbrush?" Hope asks. I had my toothbrush ready for the journey. I was willing to act like an ace reporter, responding to the demands of the city editor, like the one in The Hudsucker Proxy, which I quote with one name substitution.

    "I wanna know what makes the Coens tick! Where are they from? Where are they going? I wanna know everything about these guys? Have they got girls? Have they got parents? ... What're their hopes and dreams, their desires and aspirations? ... What do they eat for breakfast? Do they put jam on their toast or don't put jam on their toast, and if not, why not, and since when?"


ALTHOUGH I had met the Coen brothers and seen them a few times previously, I often wondered whether they were for real. Were they, as some headlines have suggested, "Brothers from Another Planet'? Or are we to believe George Clooney, who told an interviewer on the set of O Brother, Where Art Thou? that "They are not brothers at all, and Ethan is really a woman. Don't let the whiskers fool you'?

    When I first spoke to Joel, he was just about to embark on the screenplay of O Brother, Where Art Thou? with Ethan. He told me he would speak to Ethan about the biography and that I could contact them through Alan J. Schoolcraft. Having already been forewarned of the prankster nature of the brothers, I skeptically questioned the existence of Mr. Schoolcraft, but Joel insisted there was such a person. The name struck me as invented. Knowing of Alan Jay Lerner, the lyricist of My Fait Lady, I put two and two together: Lerner, Learner, Learning, School Craft. QED.

    I admit that I subsequently spoke regularly to Schoolcraft on the phone, although his voice sounded suspiciously like Joel's. He seemed to act as the Coen brothers' factotum. A sort of Figaro, which is an anagram of Fargo without the I. Then I read a diary by one Alex Belth who worked as an assistant on The Big Lebowski. He writes: "I was introduced to Alan J. Schoolcraft, a recruit sent over from Working Title ... I took one look at the Schoolcraft and thought there just wouldn't be enough for two. He was a hulking slab of a lad with a fuzzy blond head and devilishly raised eyebrows over his shiny Irish eyes. The guy was pushing thirty and had been out in La-La land for a few years." This piece of purple prose convinced me that Schoolcraft was a figment of the Coens' imagination and that Belth was playing along.

    I was further frustrated when I tried to contact their editor Roderick Jaynes, who lives in Haywards Heath, not far from London where I live, but I kept being told that he was either abroad or unavailable. I even stupidly began to question his existence, though I knew he had been nominated for an Oscar for his work on Fargo. As with Schoolcraft, I analyzed Roderick Jaynes' name. From where did the name derive? I remembered that Roderick Usher was incestuously attracted to his sister in Poe's The Fall of the House of Usher and Jaynes echoes Janus, the two-faced Roman god. And that is how the Coens were mostly seen—as a two-headed, film-making mutant.


3 The Ministry of Silly Names


BOTH JOEL and Ethan are Biblical names. Joel is Hebrew for "Yah is God," meaning "Jehovah is the only true god." In the Bible, Joel was a minor prophet, though he had a book named after him. According to nameologists, Joels are considered ambitious, intelligent, caring and creative. Ethan means firm and strong. In the Bible, Ethan the Ezrahit is an obscure figure, only mentioned as being surpassed in wisdom by Solomon. The only other Ethan as famous (yes, there is the actor Ethan Hawke) is a fictional one, Edith Wharton's Ethan Frome. There are not too many celebrated Joels either, although two appear in these pages—Joel Silver, the Hollywood producer of The Hudsucker Proxy, and Joel McCrea, the star of Preston Sturges' Sullivan's Travels, from which the Coens took the title O Brother, Where Art Thou?

    Joel and Ethan might be considered silly names by some, but they are not nearly as silly as the ones they have invented for their characters. Like one of their emulatees, Preston Sturges, they take a Dickensian delight in the comical cognomen. Gertrude Kockenlocker (Betty Hutton) is the heroine of The Miracle of Morgan's Creek (1944), who gives birth to sextuplets (one better than the mother in Raising Arizona), but can't remember the father's name. She only remembers that his name was something like Ratsky-Watsky.

    In Sturges' The Palm Beach Story (1942), Rudy Vallee plays millionaire Hackensacker III, not too distant a name from millionaire Hudsucker. (From a different world comes J.J. Hunsecker, the vicious newspaper columnist played by Burt Lancaster in Alexander Mackendrick's Sweet Smell of Success.) The ruthless businessman Sidney J. Mussburger (Paul Newman) starts toying with changing the name of Hudsucker Industries to Mussucker Industries, Hudburger Industries, Sidsucker Industries ...

    The slogan of wealthy furniture dealer Nathan Arizona, the father of the quins in Raising Arizona, is "If you can find lower prices anywhere my name ain't Nathan Arizona," when actually his name is the even sillier Nathan Huffhines. "Would you buy furniture at a store called Unpainted Huffhines?" he says. In the same movie, there are the Snopes brothers, Gale and Evelle, and the terrifying "Lone Biker of the Apocalypse" with the incongruous name of Leonard Smalls. The leading characters are H.I., or Hi (as in drugs) and Ed (as in Edwina).

    The Big Lebowski, a funny name in itself, features a video porn producer called Jackie Treehorn and a Chicano bowling fanatic called Jesus Quintano; the Soggy Bottom Boys, Wash Hogwallop (obviously a hick) and Vernon T. Waldrip (an uppity drip) appear in 0 Brother, Where Art Thou?. Fargo has Gaear Grimsrud and Carl Showalter. The "funny looking" Steve Buscemi, who plays Showalter, also plays Mink, a little rodent, in Miller's Crossing. However, the most emblematic of their characters' names, in the tradition of Restoration comedy, is Barton Fink (John Turturro), "fink" meaning a sneak or unpleasant person.


4 First Sighting


FRIDAY 24 May 1991—the Duke of York's Cinema in Brighton, Sussex, England. We have just watched Miller's Crossing as part of the Brighton Festival. Joel and Ethan are being interviewed on stage after a screening. Although I knew already from having met a number of film directors, and interviewed some of them, that they are no longer whip-wielding, eye-patch and jodhpur-wearing megalomaniacs, I still have a romantic notion of these "helmsmen" of the cinema. Now they are just like you and me, and sometimes much younger. Little did I know, that evening almost a decade ago, that I would attempt to play their Boswell, although Dr. Johnson was over twenty years older than his biographer. The reverse would have seemed quite risible. Of course, a biographer can be older than a deceased subject.

    After coming out of my reverie of how young the brothers looked, I became aware of a nasty aroma from Ethan's trainers. It was the price I paid for being too much of a fan and sitting in the front row. Some of the audience challenged them on the film-maker's "responsibility" with regards to representing violence. Joel and Ethan brushed off any sense of responsibility, which didn't go down too well with some of the more prissy questioners, but the Coens didn't seem at all bothered.


5 Double Whoopee


"WE RECEIVED your fax regarding a biography, but due to out exceedingly busy schedule we will be unable to participate in the book for some time. However, in going over your résumé we noticed a prior bio on Laurel and Hardy. If you wished to reissue that particular book and substituted `Joel and Ethan' for `Laurel and Hardy' you would have our blessing."

    I decided to try it. Below is an extract from the original first chapter of this biography.


Although it took a few more films to develop the fixed personalities that Joel and Ethan Coen would be loved and acclaimed for, it was clear that Blood Simple was the beginning of a perfect comic partnership—Joel displaying his pomposity and outraged dignity, and Ethan innocently unaware of the havoc his idiocy causes. In their T-shirts, jeans and trainers, they were vagrants from bourgeois pretensions. However, despite their deference to authority, their unfailing courtesy, and their reverence for property, they inevitably left a trail of destruction in their wake. Yet if they had been merely idiots they would never have attracted the love and laughter of generation after generation. Much of their appeal lay in a child-like innocence—children suddenly finding themselves having to behave as adults in a harsh adult world. When Ethan cried, he cried not out of anger or hurt, but because he was confused. Even as married men, they behaved like naughty boys trying to escape from their nannies.


    Unfortunately, it was too difficult to continue in this vein, because I started getting into a fine mess when certain real discrepancies between the lives of The Thin One And The Fat One and those of The Thin One and The Thin One kept creeping in. Yet, the Coens have often been referred to as a double act, and they do identify with the comic duo to a certain extent, though which is which is hard to tell. Oliver Hardy might hot have been the explicit model for the many fat men (mostly John Goodman) in the Coens' movies, but his influence on them is evident. However, Ollie was the master of the slow burn-when Stan landed him in a fine mess, he would just glare at the camera and twiddle his tie—while the Coens find "howling fat men" funny.

    In Raising Arizona, the two cons, Gale (John Goodman, the Hardy one) and Evelle (William Forsythe, the Laurel one), escape from jail and come out in the mud, a scene reminiscent of one in Pardon Us (1931), Laurel and Hardy's first feature. Stan and Ollie are sent to prison for bootlegging. When they make their escape, they find themselves in cotton fields, where they black up and join the cotton pickers undetected. The three escaped convicts in O Brother, Where Art Thou? pretend to be black when they record a "Negro song" as the Soggy Bottom Boys for a blind record producer, and later black up to effect an escape from a chain gang. Of the two cons in Raising Arizona, the Coens remarked: "We first imagined Gale and Evelle to be sort of the Laurel and Hardy of the Southern penal society. Gale being the bigger older one and Evelle more the Stan Laurel type. They looked like grown-up babies."

    As in Their First Mistake (1932), in which Laurel and Hardy have to look after an adopted baby, Gale and Evelle have Nathan Arizona Jr, the infant they have abducted, on their hands. When Evelle holds up a store to get diapers and balloons for the baby, he asks the shopkeeper if the balloons are a funny shape. "Not unless you find around funny," says the shopkeeper. The Coens obviously round "round funny" like the hula hoop—"you know, for kids"—in The Hudsucker Proxy, and big, around men like business tycoon Waring Hudsucker (Charles Durning), the detective (M. Emmett Walsh) in Blood Simple, gangster Johnny Casper (Jon Polito) in Miller's Crossing, and John Goodman.

    In Liberty (1929), Stan and Ollie are back in prison but quickly make a break for it and somehow find themselves on the top of a partly-built skyscraper, hot the best place for Olly to discover that a crab bas sidled into his pants. Panic reigns as much as when Paul Newman falls out of a skyscraper window in The Hudsucker Proxy with only the Laurel-like innocent, Tim Robbins, to hold him up by his feet.

    In The Big Lebowski, John Goodman attacks a Corvette with a crowbar, smashing the windshield and the driver's window, thinking it's the car of someone on whom he wishes to inflict revenge. Unfortunately, it's the wrong car, and the Mexican owner takes the crowbar away from him and starts to smash what he believes is Goodman's car. This derives almost directly from Big Business (1929), in which a splenetic James Finlayson and Laurel and Hardy wreck each others' Tin Lizzies with abandon.

    Stan and Ollie are known in France by the singular sobriquet of "Laurelardee." As the brothers speak with one voice, if seemed an unnecessary chore to divide their enunciations into "said Joel," "added Ethan," "Joel interrupted," "Ethan interjected," "explained Joel," "ejaculated Ethan" throughout the book. I, therefore, considered calling the Coens, in order to vary the prose Jethan, Ethoel, Joethan, Jethco, or even Ethel. How much better to quote them as one? e.g. "When we're writing the script, we're already starting to interpret the script directorially," remarked Jethco. However, more often than not I have synthesized their individual utterances into one quote, so that when one reads "said the Coens," it does not mean that they literally spoke in unison.


ED: You mean you busted out of jail?

GALE: Waaal ...

EVELLE: We released ourselves on our own

recognizance ...

GALE: What Evelle means to say is, we felt the

institution no longer had anything to offer,

—Raising Arizona


6 Coencidences


    According to Ephraim Katz, "the brothers work in perfect harmony as a synchronized unit planning and writing their films together and taking turns at directing scenes." The brothers referred to here are not the Coens but the Italians Paolo and Vittorio Taviani. Co-directed films and sibling fi]m-makers are not as "singular" or uncommon as has been made out. After all, in the beginning were the Lumière Brothers, August and Louis, whose surname has a poetic congruity. Let There Be Light!, and there was Cinema! Twin brothers John and Roy Boulting interchanged as producer and director, and Albert and David Maysles made their Direct Cinema documentaries together. At another extreme are twin brothers Mike and George Kutcha, camp, low-budget, underground New York directors. Like the Coens, they were first let loose with 8mm cameras in their childhood, but unlike the Coens, the Kutcha brothers never graduated to 35mm. "I'm afraid of working on a big picture," explained George. "I really wouldn't want anyone to sink their money into a project of mine and then lose the money." More recently, there has been Peter and Bobby Farrelly (There's Something About Mary), Larry and Andy Wachowski (Matrix), and the Belgian prize-winning brothers Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne (La Promesse, Rosetta).


NOMINALLY, JOEL directs and Ethan produces, but they are jointly involved in every aspect of production, and share the credit as screenwriters. So why does Joel take credit for directing while Ethan takes credit for producing? "We really co-direct the movies," Joel explained. "We take separate credits but actually do pretty much everything together. There real]y isn't a good reason. We got in the habit with Blood Simple, just to stake out these two areas, to say, `Look, he produces. Don't give us a producer.' We could just as easily take the credits—'Produced, written, and directed by' the two of us. We've considered changing it, but we'd just get asked why we changed if at this point, so we might as well let if be. The credits on the movie don't reflect the extent of the collaboration. I do a lot of things on the production side, and Ethan does a lot of directing stuff. The line isn't clearly drawn."

    Ethan: "We tend to see the movie on the same terms. There are no fundamental disagreements of what we are dealing with since we created it together."

    Joel: "We share the same fundamental point of view toward the material. We may disagree about detailed stuff, but it's just a case of one person convincing the other that their point of view is truer to the final objective. It gets talked out and decided through discussion. Also, by that point we are also collaborating with a lot of other people."


ROGER DEAKINS, the Director of Photography on all their films since Barton Fink, was initially concerned about the logistics of working essentially with two directors. "I soon realized, though, that I could ask either of them if I had a question. If didn't matter who I turned to. It was whoever was free and nearest or most convenient. They were so totally in sync."

    William Preston Robertson, a friend of the Coens, described their way of speaking as "a word jazz of monosyllables and demi-sentences, halting advances into non sequitur and abrupt retreats into coma." When Robertson interviewed them separately, "the isolated Coen being queried would utter hall a sentence, then look around curiously (Joel) or in panic (Ethan) when no one interrupted him to complete his thought."

    Barry Sonnenfeld, the cinematographer on their first three pictures, commented that a typical discussion on the set after a take would consist of nothing more than Ethan saying, "Joel," and Joel responding, "Yeah, Ethan, I know. I'll tell them." Another trademark is to punctuate their sentences with "heh-heh" or "yeah-yeah," nervous verbal tics that seem to indicate amazement that anything they say should be taken seriously. John Turturro calls them the "yeah-yeahs."

    "At times it was like being directed in stereo," said Jon Polito, who played Johnny Caspar in Miller's Crossing. "It's the yin and yang of one being," remarked close friend and erstwhile collaborator Sam Raimi. "They're like identical twins. Alike, but very different," according to Sonnenfeld.


BUT THEY are not identical twins, or even unidentical twins. For many years, they looked like a pair of perennial post-graduates—Coen clones can still be seen on every campus in America. Today, Joel, with his unkempt, long hair, resembles a nutty professor, while Ethan, his hair and beard more neatly trimmed, could be a lecturer in business affairs. They both wore granny glasses, though Joel's were sometimes dark tinted, while Ethan's were wire rimmed, and frequently T-shirts, jeans and trainers. One or the other or both have beards and mustaches from time to time. Joel's beard is often an attempt at a Van Dyke, and he likes to tie his straight black hair back in a pony tail, whereas Ethan seems to be able to do nothing with his gingery curly mass. Joel is taller and darker. Ethan is ginger and slight of build. One commentator separated them by saying that "Joel has the sort of good looks and elegantly casual clothes you'd expect from a semi-retired west coast musician. Ethan, with his frizzy hair and more animated expression, seems closer to the kind of movie geek that you might expect."

    According to William Preston Robertson: "Joel is lanky, dark-haired and pony-tailed. In his more pensive moments, he will sit slouched in a chair with an expression that resembles an afghan catching the faint scent of game in the wind. Ethan is somewhat shorter, but has a larger fuzzier head, and, in his more pensive moments, exhibits a propensity for tireless, outside-the-delivery room-style pacing."

    The brothers, then still in their twenties, first emerged blinking into the spotlight after Blood Simple, yet to find a distributor, had excited audiences at film festivals around the USA. For one reporter "they made a comical appearance" at the New York Film Festival. "Petite, self-effacing and soft-spoken, they gave an air of pleasant tranquillity ... looking like a couple of nuclearfreezeniks from a Quaker college."

    Gabriel Byrne, who played the lead in Miller's Crossing, commented on working with the Coens. "I had no idea what the brothers looked like and here they were, this double act who could be in movies themselves. They looked like somebody Diane Arbus could have shot, the one with long black hair who looks a bit like Peter Sellers in The Wrong Box [Joel] and the other curly-headed guy [Ethan] who chews biros all the time. And they paced up and down the floor, as they tend to do, nodding furiously one to the other."

    Joel once tried to explain away their duet for two voices in a mundane manner. "A lot of journalists write about how we finish each other's sentences. What they don't realize is that, frequently, it's in an interview session where you've often been asked the question before." "Two heads are better than none," Ethan put in.

    However, there are some divergences in their characters. Although they both smoke Camel Lights, Ethan likes good coffee from Starbucks, while Joel will drink "any-store-will-do" coffee that is handed to him and, when they write, Ethan does most of the typing. Joel is more talkative and sociable. Ethan takes books to parties. (When Barry Sonnenfeld told director Penny Marshall, "They're so easy to work with. It's like working with one person," she replied, "Sure, one of them's mute.") They live at opposite ends of Manhattan and, of course, they are married to different women, Joel to the actress Frances McDormand, and Ethan to the film editor Tricia Cooke.

    Their tastes in films differ in one aspect. "I really like dog movies," claimed Joel. "I'm not sure Ethan is into those." "Old Yeller and that kind of thing," replied Ethan dismissively. "It doesn't irritate me, ifs just not an enthusiasm I share." But Joel remarked that "Ethan is unbelievably sentimental and sloppy. He's always trying to sneak it into our movies." "Joel refuses to go to sentimental movies with me because my weeping embarrasses him. But don't tell anyone in the press."

    It obviously amuses the brothers to express some disunity, but it is the sort of badinage they resort to in order to deflect any deep probing. However, if we were to take Joel's remark at face value, then the slightly sentimental endings of Raising Arizona and Fargo, rare examples of sentimentality in their work, could be blamed on Ethan.

    Sam Raimi remarked: "Ethan has the literary mind and has more of a say on scriptorial matters, leaving Joel more time to worry about visual issues." Frances McDormand commented: "It's not like you can say exactly that one scene or one line is Joel's idea and another is Ethan's. It's a smooth, rolling process. Ethan is literary. He's published short stories outside of their work together. Because of Joel's earlier work as an editor, he's much more visual."


NEVERTHELESS, THE more one tries to separate the sibling Coens, like operating on Siamese twins, the more they knit together Like Alexander Dumas' The Corsican Brothers, The Minnesotan Brothers seem to have a "physical telepathy." The fact that they come from the twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul adds a further relish to the binary aspects of their lives.

    There is a passage in a short stop called Greenleaf by one of the brothers' favorite authors, Flannery O'Connor, that sums it up." `Which is boss, Mr. O.T. or Mrs. E.T.?' She had always suspected they fought between themselves secretly. `They never quarls,' the boy said. `They like one man in two skins.' `Hmp. I expect you just never heard them quarrel.' `Nor nobody else heard them neither.'"


Tweedledum and Tweedledee


Agreed to have a battle;


For Tweedledum said Tweedledee


Had spoiled his nice new rattle.


Just then flew down a monstrous crow,


As black as a tar-barrel;


Which frightened both the heroes so,


They quite forgot their quarrel,


—Through the Looking Glass (Lewis Carroll)

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements vii
I O, Brother! 1
II Kings of the Indies 17
III The Brothers Geek 39
IV First Blood 65
V Hi Stakes 93
VI Double Crossing 113
VII Hollywood Nuts 131
VIII CapraCoen 147
IX Yah! Yah! 165
X Cool Dudes 187
XI Odd Odyssey 203
XII Laughter in the Dark 221
Filmography 225
Bibliography 233
Index 237
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(0)

4 Star

(0)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)