Archive for January 16th, 2019

 © 2019 by James Clark

      In many ways, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018), looks to a past leaving it nearly an anachronism. The helmsmen here, Joel and Ethan Coen, have, in their business affairs, been forced to locate their complex communications in the swill of the multi-cocktail Happy Hour known as Netflix. (Years before, David Lynch, apropos of the vein now virulent, was heard to declare, “I didn’t make this picture for your damn phone.”)

As you probably know, the boys are nothing if not resilient, and with this unwelcome matter in the air they prove to be even more feisty and irreverent than usual. Their strategy to be large as life is a wild and wonderful tour de force. Inasmuch as this film with a vengeance is multi-faceted, let’s ease into it by way of its amusingly wicked parody of Millennials, those softies utterly disinclined to show up at a theatre to see a Coens’ film.

You might think the lads are staging some kind of revival of Cowboys and Indians entertainment, inasmuch as the setting is the “Wild West,” and its six vignettes comprise the product seen to be slices (in various tones) of the fateful drama of what used to be a big money-maker. Actor, Tim Blake Nelson—directly addressing the audience as if it were packed with fast friends—leads off with a singing cowboy, Buster Scruggs, so hilarious in enjoying his domain that we barely register that the song he so confidently sings is about dying of thirst (“Cool Water”) and that he takes low-key umbrage that one of his wanted posters accuses him of being a misanthrope (his horse whinnying in support when prompted to consider that the charge is patently unfair). That he brightens up with the thought that “Song never fails to sooth my restless heart,” constitutes the first of many displays of assurance that heavy baggage can be exorcised on the order of a good cleaning lady. (The writer/ performer of the song, “Cool Water,” Marty Robbins, was not only a country/Western musical profit-centre in the Nixon-era, but also a NASCAR driver, always in the hunt. On one racing occasion, he was seriously injured swerving into a wall to avert smashing into a stalled vehicle. Hold that thought in fathoming the protagonists stalled here, in other ways.) (more…)

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