Coen brothers' new movie marks out end of American West
May 20, 2007 - 10:07:28 AM
Cannes, May 20 - More than just a thriller, American directors Ethan and Joel Coen's latest film 'No Country For Old Men', premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, is much more about a drug deal that went baldly wrong.
Set in the parched windy open spaces of Texas, 'No Country For Old Men' is also about a way of life in Texas that some would see as typically America and that now appears to be in its death throes.
Screened Saturday during the festival, the film starts and ends with the local ageing sheriff Ed Tom Bell - lamenting the passing of the old times. He just can't seem to make sense of it all anymore.
The trouble started, he tells a friend as the movie draws to a close, when 'we quit saying sir and ma'am'.
In between, the Coen brothers take their audience on a story of mayhem and violence on the lawless American-Mexican border.
This comes after a local hunter Llewelyn Moss - stumbles across a group of cars surrounded by bloodied bodies sprawled out of the ground, a huge stash of heroin and about two million dollars in cash.
'- people think it is a more hostile world,' Ethan Coen told a press conference Saturday. 'It is a reflection of ageing not what the world is like.'
Indeed, 'No Country for Old Men', which is based on a novel by American writer Cormac McCarthy, is a story told principally by ageing Texan characters.
One of the major exceptions is the pathological killer and drugs ringleader Anton Chigurh, played by Spain's Javier Bardem. Chigurh's origins are unclear except that he is not from where the film is set.
After discovering the money, Moss grabs the cash and heads off with Chigurh in hot pursuit. 'He does not have a sense of humour,' Moss is warned as he battles to keep one step ahead of Chigurh.
Shot under a big blue American sky and in dim highway motel rooms, its screening in Cannes comes about 16 years after the Coen brothers were catapulted onto the world cinema stage after they won the festival top honours, the Palme d'Or for Barton Fink.
The film is one of the five films from US directors in the 22-movie race for this year's Palm d'Or.
The Coen brothers are currently working on a new movie set in Washington and starring Brad Pitt, Francis McDonald and George Clooney. Shooting is due to start in August.
After something of a love-hate relationship between the American cinema world and Cannes in recent years, the strong showing by US directors at this year's festival is seen by movie critics as representing almost a celebration of US independent movie making.
In 'No Country For Old Men', the Coen brothers place their particular brand of humour in what they describe as an American crime story.
'It is interesting that some people are characterising it as a western,' said Joel. 'But in our minds it is closer to a crime story.'
They also admitted that there are parallels between 'No Country...' and their popular 'Fargo', which was also a dark comedy about a crime that went badly wrong. 'The similarities with Fargo occurred to us but only retrospectively,' said Joel.
Commenting on their working relationship, the Coen brothers insist that there never really are any conflicts between them during the directing of their movies. After all, they say, they work with many people on their films.
But the actors from 'No Country For Old Men' saw it otherwise. It is, said Brolin 'one guy with two heads. It is a simple understanding of their own sensibilities.'
'I was truly disappointed when I discovered they were sleeping in different beds,' said Bardem.
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