TIFF Cinematheque presents – The Coen Brothers

Ethan produces, Joel directs and both write the scripts.  Among them are Oscar winners at the Oscars and Palme d’Ors at Cannes and indeed the best films of the decade.  Just before their Christmas Day release of their newest hit INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS, TIFF Cinematheque presents a retrospective of most of their films.

These are my favourite TOP 5 Coen Brothers films in alphabetical order:

BURN AFTER READING (not screened at the retrospective unfortunately)





Their films are characterized by stylized set pieces, kinky violence, ripe dialogue and over the top characters.  The characters are sometimes too dumb (Tim Blake Nelson’s Delmar in O BROTHER WHERE ART THOU?, too literary for their own realization (John Turturro’s BARTON FINK) or too mart for their own good (Gabriel Byrne’s gangster in MILLER’S CROSSING).

For complete program, ticket pricing and venue, please check the Cinematheque website at:


Capsule Reviews of 4 of the Coen Brothers Films are provided below:-




BARTON FINK (USA 1991) ***

Directed by Joel Coen


The strangest of al the Coen films, BARTON FINK tells the story of a NYC playwright (John  Turturro) who is hired and moves to Hollywood to write film scripts.  Fink stays at the rundown Earle Hotel in which the wallpaper peels and the temperature too high.  He meets the neighbor in the next room, Charlie, who he confides in (John Goodman) but who might not be what he seems.  Complications arise when he gets writer’s block and falls in love with a fellow writer’s girlfriend, Audrey Taylor (Judy Davis) who ends up murdered in a surrealistic scene.  The film contains lots of references to the Bible, other writers, Hollywood moguls, that would make interesting discussion.  But the story meanders along with quite he few events unexplained.  But the sets especially the burning walls at the film’s climax are unforgettable.  Barton Fink is an idealist whose writing is not appreciated by the commercial Hollywood producers.  Ironically, this film, which is not half bad, only made 2/3 of its budget when released even though it won the Palme d’Or at Cannes as ell as awards for Best Director and Best Actor.

BLOOD SIMPLE (to be posted)



Directed by Joel Coen


One of the lesser seen and lesser successes of the Coen Brothers, MILLER”S CROSING made only $5 million on its $14 million budget  But the film has won critical acclaim nevertheless.  The story sees an American city during the prohibition era run by two rival bosses, one Italian, Johnny Caspar (John Polito) and the other Irish , Leo O’Bannon (Albert Finney).  The protagonist of the piece is Tom (Gabriel Byrne) who plays both sides.  Every act is almost perfect in its setting from the stylized set-ups, choreographed movements to the superb acting.  The script contains lots of jargon with lots of nicknames for each character that might get a bit confusing at first.  But Coen’s film demands attention to reap its rewards.  The assassination scene at MILLER”S CROSSING in the woods is reminiscent of the betrayal scene in Bernardo Bertolucci’s THE CONFORMIST.


Directed by Joel Coen


            Based loosely on Homer’s The Odyssey, this is an immensely enjoyable film on many levels, one of them being the music.  With period folk music including that of Virginia bluegrass singer Ralph Stanley, the soundtrack went on to win a Grammy for the Album of the year 2001.  Set in 1937 Mississippi, the plot revolves around three escaped convicts.  Everett (George Clooney) is too smart for his own good while Delmar (Tim Blake Nelson) too dumb for anyone’s good.  Pete (John Turturro) is right there in between.  Their search for the lost treasure of $1.2 million leads the trio to a series of adventures including escaping the Ku-Klux Klan and singing a top hit song as the Soggy Bottom Boys.  Those who are familiar with Homer’s Odyssey will have the additional bonus of identifying the various characters in the film with that of The Odyssey (Everett is Ulysses; Everett’s wife is Penelope; the blind station manager is Homer etc.)

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