Wednesday, September 17, 2008

What a "Burn"

So sue me.

I enjoyed the new Joel and Ethan Coen film BURN AFTER READING more than NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN.

I don't think it's a better film. Not by a long shot. In fact, in the Coen brothers film canon, it sits probably between O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU? and THE MAN WHO WASN'T THERE. But the truth of the matter is I laughed my fool head off at this goofy, wonderfully convoluted comedy, their funniest since the now legendary THE BIG LEBOWSKI. While it took a little while to ramp up, this tale of supposed espionage in a self-important world gave me the horselaugh more than a few times. The story fell together like the Dance of the Seven Veils and underneath is a beautifully convoluted mess. The caricatured characters, from Frances McDormand's lovelorn sad sack to John Malkovich's pompous mid-management intelligence officer hit every right note, though the film is outright stolen by Brad Pitt as one of the Coen Bros.' best American idiots (see also: O BROTHER AND RAISING ARIZONA), a dim bulb satisfied with his own wattage.

I had a lot of problems with NO COUNTRY, particularly with the final third of the film. I, like many others, felt cheated by the outcome of one of the main characters. It made me very so ambivalent after the first viewing that I reserved my opinion until the second time through. I have to stand by my initial assessment: I felt that the Coens have given me a wild ride, then dropped me off in the middle of nowhere, causing me to find my own way back.

In BURN, there is an entire series of events that is talked about and not shown. I didn't feel gypped by this at all. The telling of that tale by fine actors like David Rasche and J.K. Simmons, one of the best character actors around, was sublime. And I found out WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED.

P.S. I caught BURN AFTER READING at the newly remodeled Roseway Theater, a classic old cinema in Northeast Portland and found hope in the world of single-screen venues. Here's another addition to the list of why I love it up here.

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