Screen Studies - Spotlight


Christopher Nolan
Image: ©Gramercy Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection / Mary Evans

Joel Coen and Ethan Coen

“I gotta tell ya, the life of the mind, there's no road map for that kinda territory,and exploring it can be painful.”

    - Barton Fink, from Barton Fink (Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, 1991)

Since their debut feature, Miller’s Crossing (1990), Joel Coen and Ethan Coen’s filmmaking has spanned genres and styles and tone. Their films frequently mix, pastiche and disrupt classic Hollywood genres, and several, including Barton Fink (1991) and Hail, Caesar! (2016) deal with the bewildering and bizarre world of Hollywood itself. The brothers’ holistic creative practice extends to their writing, producing, directing and (under the alias Roderick Jaynes) editing their features.

Explore the screenplays of the Coens’ cult classic The Big Lebowski (1998), the gentle but dark period drama A Serious Man (2009), which drew inspiration from the brothers’ childhood in suburban Minnesota, and Inside Llewyn Davis (2013), the story of a struggling folk singer in 1960s New York City.

Read J.J. Murphy’s analysis of shifting protagonists in Fargo (1996), a film that’s also discussed by Mike Figgis as an example of ‘Abduction’, one of his Thirty-Six Dramatic Situations.