• Me have note that me hope come across as constructive criticism because me want to see this site continue to improve and not just, you know, criticism. Me not know who Graham is. And me would guess most readers not know either. It not good to be too familiar when writing for wider audience. Use authoritative editorial voice. To quote Coens, “editorial ‘we’, man!”

    As for idea that they have contempt for characters, me not agree with that either. For filmmakers so closely associated with their Jewishness, me actually see in their films Christian idea that everyone is flawed but deserving of redemption. Me feel like unifying theme of their movies is to show us flawed humanity in all its messy glory. We clearly meant to root for and sympathize with Llewyn Davis, even as it very clear that he chronic fuckup who bring most of his problems on self. Even poor Jerry Lundegaard meant to be sympathetic in some way — yes, he one who sets this scheme in motion and gets multiple people killed, but he clearly just schmuck with one bad idea who got in way over his head. Anton Chigurgh might be only character in entire Coen oevre for whom you not look at his misdeeds and say, “well, he only human.”

    • DJ JD

      This might be classic egocentrism on my part, being something of a hard-minded Protestant, but I see a deep, complicated fascination with hard-minded Protestantism in their films. It’s dyed into the fiber of movies like Fargo and laid out almost explicitly in True Grit and O Brother Where Art Thou?, but even movies like No Country and Burn After Reading show that knife-edge awareness of humanity’s capacity for self-deception, the painful, possibly lethal consequences to foolish actions and the ever-present need for capital-G-Grace in the face of a universe that can seem awfully capricious sometimes.

      Viewed through that lens, I see them as deeply sympathetic to their characters, and never more so than when they do horrible things to them. They don’t look down on Brolin’s Moss one bit, but the moment they introduce Chigurh, they pity him. He thinks he’s tough enough, and smart enough, and fast enough, and he, like Samson, is deceived to tragic ends. I didn’t realize what sort of movie I was watching my first time through No Country or else I would’ve recognized how clearly Moss’s doom was spelled out the instant Jones’ Sheriff Bell promised Mrs. Moss that he could keep him safe. It’s a promise none of us can actually keep, as every parent is keenly aware.

      As for Chigurh himself, I view him more as an elemental presence, the “harsh and unforgiving world outside of grace” personified, that von Bargen’s Sheriff “SATAN” Cooley from O Brother is also a part of. There is no fighting these forces, no reasoning with these forces and no hope for those poor souls who fall into their hands. (On that note, I suspect that O Brother could’ve just as easily ended as a tragedy if they’d started the movie where they chose to end it.)

      • Miller

        Nice connection of the Sheriff to Chigurh (and this figure goes back to the Lone Biker of the Apocalypse in Raising Arizona, right?).

    • Fair point. You’re quite right, and I need to identify him every time. For the record, he’s my boyfriend.

      I would also say that “contempt” and “disdain” are not entirely the same thing. I think they both understand Jerry and have a certain amount of disdain for him, that he’s led by his urges that way. Or beyond Jerry, Judith Gopnik. I think they disapprove of her. She’s a taker. She’s a loving mother, but she’s selfish, and they disapprove of that.

  • Miller

    “But another sin in the Coens’ filmography is willful ignorance, to be atoned for through education”

    I like this a lot. I’m a firm believer in the general Coen ratio of the more a character talks, the less intelligent/more stupid he is, and talking is one of the surest ways a person can not listen and therefore not learn. “YOU! DON’T! LISTEN!” is spoken by the devil himself, isn’t it? And one of my favorite Coen performances is Josh Brolin’s Tom Chaney, who even more than Clooney’s cluster of boobs embodies ignorance that refuses to budge and the damage that can cause.