Constructing the Coens

From Blood Simple to Inside Llewyn Davis

By (author) Allen Redmon

Hardback - £54.00

Publication date:

02 February 2015

Length of book:

192 pages


Rowman & Littlefield Publishers

ISBN-13: 9781442244849

The films of Ethan and Joel Coen have been embraced by mainstream audiences, but also have been subject to intense scrutiny by critics and cinema scholars. Movies such as Barton Fink, The Hudsucker Proxy, and Raising Arizona represent the filmmakers’ postmodern tendencies, a subject many academics have written about at length. But is it enough to reduce their features as expressions of postmodernism or are there other ways of viewing their work—not only their individual films but their entire output as a collective whole?

Constructing the Coens: From Blood Simple to Inside Llewyn Davis, Allen H. Redmon looks beyond the postmodern sensibilities of every film written and directed by the Coens to find an unexpected range of recurring ideas expressed in and about contemporary film. In this volume, Redmon tackles all of the films in the Coen brothers’ canon by examining—among other topics—narrative coherence in The Man Who Wasn’t There, intertextuality in No Country for Old Men, and sexuality in Burn after Reading and O Brother, Where Art Thou? Additional chapters look at their films through the prisms of gender studies, adaptation studies, and a constructivist sensibility weaved throughout their work.

Considering the whole of the Coens’ output, as well as many of the topics being discussed in contemporary film studies, this book challenges viewers to reexamine their initial responses to these movies. By engaging both the familiar and foreign elements in each film,
Constructing the Coens will appeal to fans of the brothers’ cinema, but also to students and scholars of film theory, adaptation studies, queer theory, and gender studies.
Redmon has written the definitive critical study of the films of Ethan and Joel Coen, the writer-director team behind Fargo, Raising Arizona, and O Brother, Where Art Thou? Previous critics have portrayed the Coen Brothers as hipsters who make apocalyptic, misanthropic films about American culture made palatable by healthy doses of humor, a nostalgic period setting, and affectionate homages to genre films of the past—especially film noir, the western, and the musical. Redmon, however, demonstrates that, while the brothers may be snarky—and may employ postmodern storytelling techniques—their work is soulful and concerned with truth and ethics…. Redmon explains that the Coen Brothers’ films demand that the audience participate actively in making meanings of the films. The films help viewers become better readers of cinema and of life, and offer us all clues as to how to find truth and emotional authenticity in the grotesque carnival of broken dreams and solipsistic concerns of an America fractured by the culture wars. As Redmon observes, while the Coens enjoy laughing at human folly, they have an ethical worldview, celebrating virtue, condemning evil, and asking us to accept the mystery of the human comedy. Say whatever you want about the Coen Brothers: these men are not nihilists and their films have an ethos.