The Belcourt Theatre presents The Coen Brothers: 30 Years, a near-complete retrospective of the films of Joel and Ethan Coen, Dec. 6-20. The series precedes the Belcourt’s opening of their newest film, INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS, which has a Dec. 19 midnight preview screening before its run officially begins Dec. 20.
The retrospective kicks off Dec. 6 with two fan favorites: the macabre and strangely humorous debut, BLOOD SIMPLE, an homage to the noir films of the ‘40s and ‘50s; and the hilarious and lovable RAISING ARIZONA, featuring Nicholas Cage, Holly Hunter and John Goodman. Highlights from the retrospective include Academy Award winning FARGO; THE BIG LEBOWSKI, featuring Jeff Bridges as “The Dude,” one of his most memorable onscreen personas; and Academy Award-winning NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, featuring a career-defining performance by Javier Bardem.
Also featured in The Coen Brothers: 30 Years is DOWN FROM THE MOUNTAIN, a concert documentary made by a filmmaking trio including D.A. Pennebaker. Set at the Ryman Auditorium in May 2000, the concert features music from O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU? (a soundtrack assembled by long-time Coens’ collaborator T-Bone Burnett) with musicians including Emmylou Harris, Allison Krauss, Ralph Stanley among others. DOWN FROM THE MOUNTAIN is offered alongside O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU? as a double-feature presentation on Dec. 13, 14 and 19.
“A Coens’ retrospective has been on the To-Do list for years,” says Toby Leonard, director of programming. “With the release of INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS and its myriad local relevancies, the timing couldn’t be better.”
The Coen Brothers: 30 Years features an impressive roster of films produced between 1984 and 2013. BLOOD SIMPLE (1984) a low-budget thriller that charts the anatomy of jealousy, revenge and greed, sets the tone for the filmmakers’ future works with its deadly humor and morbid vengeance. In the comic tale of one couple’s desire to have a baby at any cost, RAISING ARIZONA (1987) features an ex-cop (Holly Hunter) and her ex-convict husband (Nicolas Cage), who kidnap one of a local furniture magnate’s quintuplets. MILLER’S CROSSING (1990) draws inspiration from the fiction of Dashiell Hammett and the rich heritage of Hollywood’s early gangster films with its intricate, shockingly violent and darkly humored plot.
Actor John Turturro plays the title character in BARTON FINK (1991), an earthy intellectual who finds that a simple writing assignment leads him down a rabbit hole of secrets, intrigue and even murder. In FARGO (1996), the Coens transform a seemingly mundane crime story set in a snowbound Midwest town into a clever film that unfolds in the duo’s now-trademark hilariously dark fashion. FARGO won Academy Awards for Best Original Screenplay and Best Actress (Frances McDormand).
The retrospective continues with the cult classic, THE BIG LEBOWSKI (1998) that follows the quest of Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski and his bowling buddies as they seek restitution for his ruined rug in a twisted case of mistaken identity. O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU? (2000), follows three convicts on their epic journey as they fast-talk their way out of jams, sidestep alluring sirens and record a hit country song. The masterful tale of NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN (2007), based on Cormac McCarthy’s novel, earned the Coen brothers three Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay; and Javier Bardem won as Best Supporting Actor for his role as a sadistic figure of evil incarnate.
The Coens tackle the culture of modern surveillance in the laugh-filled dark comedy BURN AFTER READING (2008). Posing questions that are worth pondering, A SERIOUS MAN (2009) tells the story of a man in crisis, a darkly humorous film with profound themes.
The Coen brothers new film INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS tells the story of a struggling musician who navigates the Greenwich Village folk scene of 1961, guitar in tow, against seemingly insurmountable obstacles. In the tradition of O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU?, the film is infused with sounds from another time and place, featuring music performed by Justin Timberlake, Carey Mulligan, Marcus Mumford and the Punch Brothers.
The Coen Brothers: 30 Years is generously supported by Nina and H.G. Webb. Here are the films and dates (for currently scheduled showtimes click here):
Friday-Saturday, Dec. 6-7; Thursday Dec. 12
Dirs. Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, USA, 1984, 99min, R, 35mm
Marty (Dan Hedaya) suspects his wife (Frances McDormand) of infidelities and hires a private eye (M. Emmet Walsh) to obtain photographic proof. When his worst fears are confirmed, Marty sets a plan in motion which proves catastrophic for all involved.
Friday-Saturday, Dec. 6-7; Thursday, Dec. 12
Dirs. Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, USA, 1987, 94min, PG-13, DCP
When ex-cop Ed McDonnough (Holly Hunter) discovers that her womb “is a rocky place” where the seed of her ex-con husband H.I. (Nicolas Cage) “can find no purchase,” she sets into motion a plan to kidnap one of a local furniture magnate’s new quintuplets. Set to the yodeling chorus of an old Bob Wills tune, the Coens’ lovable and ever-quotable 1987 comedy co-stars John Goodman, William Forsythe and former Nashville fixture Randall “Tex” Cobb.
Saturday-Sunday, Dec. 7-8; Tuesday, Dec. 10
Dirs. Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, USA, 1990, 115min, R, DCP
Tom (Gabriel Byrne) negotiates the difficult terrain of an on-going gang war between the Irish American political boss Leo O’Bannon (Albert Finney) and his Italian opposition Johnny Caspar (Jon Politio) in this Prohibition era gangster film.
Saturday-Sunday, Dec. 7-8; Tuesday, Dec. 10
Dirs. Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, USA, 1991, 116min, R, 35mm
Not even earthy intellectual Barton Fink (John Turturro) can resist the call of Hollywood. But what should be a simple writing assignment becomes an existential flatline that claims all around it.
Wed, Dec. 11; Saturday, Dec. 14
Dirs. Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, USA, 1996, 98min, R, 35mm
Minneapolis car salesman Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy) hatches an elaborate plot to extort a ransom from his father-in-law by hiring two vicious but inept criminals (Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare) to kidnap his wife. When the plan goes horribly wrong, Minnesota police chief Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand) is hot on their trail.
THE BIG LEBOWSKI
Friday-Saturday, Dec. 13-14; Tuesday, Dec. 17
Dirs. Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, USA, 1998, 117min, R, DCP
Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski doesn’t want any drama in his life—heck, he can’t even be bothered with a job. But he must embark on a quest with his bowling buddies after his rug is destroyed in a twisted case of mistaken identity. Starring Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Julianne Moore, Steve Buscemi, Philip Seymour Hoffman and John Turturro.
Double Feature! Two Films, One Ticket
O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU
DOWN FROM THE MOUNTAIN
Friday-Saturday, Dec. 13-14; Dec. 19
O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU?
Dirs. Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, USA, 2000, 106min, PG-13, 35mm
With their collective eye focused on retrieving a cache of hidden money, three convicts (George Clooney, John Turturro and Tim Blake Nelson) break out of jail in Depression-era Mississippi and embark on an epic journey that bears more than a few similarities to Homer’s Odyssey. Along the way, they fast-talk their way out of jams, sidestep alluring riverside sirens and record a hit country song as the Soggy Bottom Boys.
DOWN FROM THE MOUNTAIN
Dirs. Nick Doob, Chris Hegedus, D.A. Pennebaker, USA, 2000, 98min G, HD
On May 24, 2000, a group of mostly Nashville-based musicians converged on the stage of the Ryman Auditorium to celebrate the music of O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU? (the soundtrack, produced by long-time Coens’ collaborator T-Bone Burnett, has since gone on to sell nearly 8 million copies). Filmed by a well known team of filmmakers, this engaging concert documentary features Ralph Stanley, the Fairfield Four, Gillian Welch, Allison Krauss and Emmylou Harris among others, as well as a whole host of Station Inn regulars and the final filmed performance of the legendary John Hartford.
NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN
Sunday, Dec. 15; Wednesday, Dec. 18
Dirs. Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, USA, 2007, 122min, R, 35mm
Hunter Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) stumbles upon the bloody aftermath of a botched drug deal and believes he can safely abscond with the case of $2 million he finds amongst the bodies. Unbeknownst to him, nihilistic assassin Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) has been sent to retrieve the money and eliminate anyone who stands in his way.
BURN AFTER READING
Sunday, Dec. 15; Tuesday, Dec. 17
Dirs. Joel and Ethan Coen, USA, 2008, 96min, R, DCP
When a disc belonging to a former CIA operative (John Malkovich) finds its way into the hands of a dunderheaded personal trainer (Brad Pitt) and an associate with severe self esteem issues (Frances McDormand), bodies and laughs amass in alarming amounts.
A SERIOUS MAN
Sunday, Dec. 15; Wednesday, Dec. 18
Dirs. Joel and Ethan Coen, USA, 2009, 106min, R, DCP
Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg) is a man put upon by the world. His marriage is crumbling. His children are at war with each other. His brother…. Well, don’t ask about him. Is it possible that God has it in for our man? Perhaps engaging in the new freedoms will help in accepting the mystery.
INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS
Opens Friday, Dec. 20
(with midnight preview screening Thursday, Dec. 19)
Dirs. Joel and Ethan Coen, USA, 2013, 105min, R, DCP
Guitar in tow, huddled against the unforgiving New York winter, Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) is struggling to make it as a musician, navigating the Greenwich Village folk scene of 1961 against seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Living at the mercy of both friends and strangers, Llewyn’s misadventures take him from the basket houses of the Village to an empty Chicago club—on an odyssey to audition for a music mogul—and back again. Brimming with music performed by Isaac, Justin Timberlake and Carey Mulligan, as well as Marcus Mumford and Punch Brothers, INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS—in the tradition of O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU?—is infused with the sound of another time and place. An epic on an intimate scale, it represents the Coen brothers’ fourth collaboration with multiple-Grammy® and Academy Award®-winning music producer T Bone Burnett.
*Logo art and video courtesy Belcourt Theatre.