Friday, September 25, 2015

Oh Brother Where Art Thou (2000) NYFF 2015

I am a man of constant sorrow where this film is concerned. There is a story here, I’m not sure it’s a good one, but there is a story, something on the order of the long trip the characters in this film take, though considerably more shaggy.

After OH BROTHER opened in theaters after it’s triumphant or reasonably successful reception at the New York Film Festival in 2000 the film hit theaters. A friend at work saw the film and began to implore me to go see it. “You have to go” he would say trying to get me to go or go with him to see it. He saw the film several times during its run, I never did.

I did buy the CD and listened to the music a little too much.

The next year about the time my brother got married the film came out on DVD. I picked it up the DVD. Of course I didn’t watch it since I was too caught up in being a best man to watch it. When my brother came back from his honeymoon, he borrowed the disc and it disappeared for about year and half.

When I got the disc back it went into the pile…

Of course by that time HBO was running the film and I was catching the film in bits and pieces. I never could manage to catch it from the beginning.

About five or six years later (no seriously) I was going to sit down and have lunch and I wanted to watch something…so what did I do, I dug out the DVD and I popped it in and I started to watch OB BROTHER….

And you know what? I didn’t like it.

I don’t know if it was the long journey to get to the end or it was the result of only occasionally clicking with the Cohen’s loopy humor, but tI think the film wasn’t all that special- except for the music.

The plot of the film is lifted from the myth of the Odyssey. Instead of Greeks fighting to return home after a war, it’s convicts fleeing from a chain gang during the Great Depression. If you know your ancient Greek history then you’ll see all of the parallels. But for me outside of some clever tweaking of there isn’t anything really here.

Actually there is- there is a killer bluegrass soundtrack. The score put together by T Bone Burnett is incredible. For me the music is the reason to see the film, or at least buy the CD.

The problem with the film is it walks the fine line about magical realism and keeps slipping off it. I could buy the refashioned myth if the film wasn’t so silly. George Clooney is extremely silly to be a caricature instead of a character. The leads are clearly never in danger despite the terrible things that happen and it takes the edge off. The film is a cartoon (said in negative way).

I know the film clicks with many people but for me it just doesn’t work.

That said if I had a free night on October 1 I would be at the NYFF screening its going to have the cast crew and musical performers. If you’ve never seen the film you may want to consider going because not only is there a chance you’ll like the film but you’ll be there on a very special night.

1 comment:

  1. Hot Damn! It's the Soggy Bottom Boys! I couldn't disagree with you more; apart from the music which is fantastic. An endlessly quoteable film with great performances from Clooney, Turturro and Tim Blake Nelson. Runs a very close second with Big Lebowski as favourite Coen film. Mmmm but True Grit and No Country were damn good. And Fargo. I feel a Coen blog post coming on!