“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs”: The Netflix movie of the Coen brothers to death suits them so well …
The universe of the Coen brothers in a setting worthy of the films “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” of Joel Coen. This is what the famous tandem invites us in his new opus, winner of the award for best screenplay at the Venice Film Festival, online on Netflix today.
It is true that on the narrative level, the Coen are very clever. The six stories take the form of a tale in which the viewer is invited to enter as in a large illustrated book. Above all, the filmmakers are full of sight in the first two chapters distilling a very cartoony humor, but they are a little more serious as the stories scroll.
These are very distinct from each other, and showcase a completely different distribution each time, but they still have one thing in common: death is always at the rendezvous.
The admirers of the Coen brothers’ cinema will be delighted by the introduction.
The Scruggs Buster of the title, played by Tim Blake Nelson, sings a song on the guitar on horseback to then better reveal his talents as a maverick in a saloon where he is refused to drink. It’s both very funny and very violent.
We will also smile at the misadventure of a bank robber (James Franco) whose life is literally the movement of his faithful horse.
Supported by the spectacular images of Bruno Delbonnel, who had already signed those of Inside Llewyn Davis, their previous film, the Coen offer us a film at once unclassifiable and fascinating, which takes root from the American mythology.
A tragicomic wild west: he was six times in the west!
It is in the rare form of the sketch film that they chose to pay homage to the Wild West. In offbeat Americana mode. Rather than a spectacular and eye-catching lyricism, they quickly turned the subject. Through the six chapters that make up their anthology, it is a personal style exercise that they begin.
Adapted from 6 stories written over a period of a quarter of a century, it is nothing less than the most hackneyed themes of the western that are flipping in front of us. Because it is a book that literally illustrates the subject. A Western pulp anthology, with catchphrase and fall in sentence mode. All illustrated by a drawing worthy of the best American comics.
The Coen brothers’ first western
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, distributed by Netflix, was originally conceived as an anthology consisting of 6 episodes. It now seems to have taken the form of a feature film of 132 minutes, the premiere of which will take place at the Venice Film Festival 2018.
This is the first real incursion of the Coen brothers in the western, although many of their previous feature films sometimes evoked, by their atmosphere, this genre film
The Barker, the art of telling stories: Remi without family way western
Meal ticket (sic), is a terrible story. Liam Neeson plays a trailer hutter, who wanders from town to village, holes lost in shabby stages. He presents a new and improbable show. In the evening, the rare spectators of the mobile stage are unveiled, the highlight of a unique show. An actor declaims, with a rare talent, among the most poetic, tragic or biblical texts of history. Gifted, he hypnotizes the audience as much by his talent, real, as by its … particularity.
But I will not spoil this detail, it will determine the tragic outcome of the trip. Because the impresario must constantly take care of him. And often the charge is heavy and the spleen of the deep actor. Even a passage to the brothel becomes a dramatic scene. So when the tame huckster encamped by a masterful Liam Neeson, finds a new show idea, the dice seem to be thrown (coughs). The fall (cough) will make you fall (cough).
Like Remi without family, it’s a riotous record, the tearful melody tricky into hell. Despite everything, the Coen brothers are stunned, and are respectful of the western legend. Wild, necessarily.
The cast of The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
So we learned recently that Tom Waits was part of the cast of The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. The musician already has a long experience of the cinema, having played in more than thirty films including Rusty James, Down by Law, Candy Mountain, Dracula, Short Cuts and more recently Twixt (as narrator), under the direction high-class directors like Coppola, Jarmusch and Altman. His role in the Coen brothers‘ new film is not known to this day.
Waits rubs shoulders here with other famous actors, including the remarkable Brendan Gleeson (Good kisses of Bruges), Liam Neeson, Tim Blake Nelson (recently seen in the excellent Colossal) and James Franco (Spring Breakers).
Duel of musical kids: The far west’s voices
Buster Scruggs’s ballad, opening chapter is the shortest of skits. But he is the cornerstone of the game of massacres undertaken in the film of Joel and Ethan Coen. He deserves to give his title to the whole score.
Played by a hilarious Tim Blake Nelson, we discover him as a virtuoso tit, stuck to his guitar and his horse Dan. With in background the iconic landscape of the Monument Valley. Cinemascope effect guaranteed! And depth of field amplified by the digital quality of the images. But the postcard is misleading, because very quickly we understand that the handsome white operetta horseman is a formidable messenger of death and that he makes his colts six guns sing as quickly as he makes improvised ballads.
Move in the desert and Mexican bandits, overcrowded saloon and deadly poker game, duels in the street hand: EVERYTHING is there. Until the undertaker, as black as the last pistolero who plays … the harmonica!
The pattern is tight. Closer to the sources of the Hollywood western. That of the mute and the thirties. Where the handsome rider is a clean Rudolph Valentino but not yet a legendary John Wayne.
Rating: R (for some strong violence)
Genre: Drama, Western
Directed By: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Stars: Tim Blake Nelson, Willie Watson, Clancy Brown
Written By: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
In Theaters: Nov 8, 2018 Limited
On Disc/Streaming: Nov 16, 2018
Runtime: 132 minutes
Though the stories are individually captivating and very much worth the price of admission-see the film on a big screen if you can-they fit together awkwardly.
There is so much to enjoy in The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. That I can’t help but (mostly) forgive those shortcomings. Any film that has a man insisting that “people are like ferrets” is all right by me.
Many of us god-fearing reg’lar folk expect a twist at the closing of a short story, but life ain’t like that on the frontiers of the Coen brothers’ imagination, no sirree.