Monday, January 7, 2008

No Film for Young Men

It's not much of a spoiler to say that No Country For Old Men ends with one character relating a dream he had to another character. It ends almost mid-sentence, and you will hear people around you go "what the fuck?" But it's a suitable ending, in my mind, to a film that is, in some ways is like one long dream, or nightmare. It sticks with you, like an intense dream you had, and the Coen brothers touches are very dreamlike, from the very unusual murder weapon (an air tank cattle gun), the repetitive, quirky dialogue ("that's a dead dog." "they even shot the dog."), and a plot that somehow just doesn't make sense sometimes (who was that guy in the highrise, anyway? and who were those three Mexicans in the hotel, and how did the Javier Bardem character know everything).

More than anything, the dreamy aura is created by the long stretches of silence and almost complete lack of soundtrack. In fact, I thought there was zero music period until I read the New York Times piece about the sound design. There is a good guy, Llewelyn Moss (played by Josh Brolin) and a bad guy, Anton Chigurh (played by Javier Bardem, brilliantly cast) in this film. The good guy is intensely appealing: intelligent but not intellectual, laconic, sexy, loyal, wry, and the bad guy is almost like the Dennis Hopper character in Blue Velvet in his utter evil-incarnateness. The film is made by the Coen brothers. It's darker than Dakota, and not as funny as O Brother Where Art Thou, but it's more important somehow than at least the latter and most of their other films.

The film proves my verymarkmccormick theory, stated many times here, that a good film requires a sympathetic protagonist. This film has two, and when one of them doesn't quite make it to the end (honestly that's not a spoiler) the film pretty much sputters, but doesn't entirely die.

I liked the look and sound of this film a lot. It's crafted like a poem that has a lot to say, metaphorically, about desolate landscapes and the characters that live in them. It's like Brokeback Mountain in that way. Long shots of the landscape, the sound of the prairie wind, enigmatic, weathered, characters dying of boredom who somehow endure and are not quite as stupid as they first seem, but nonetheless die in senseless ways all the time, as vulnerable to evil as dry greasewood in a lightning storm. I come from Idaho. I know this shit is true.


Anonymous said...

(Spoiler Alert)
I agree completely that this is a movie that lingers. The scene that I appreciated more after the fact is the one where Chigurh meets, and in some respects, faces off with Lleweln's wife, Carla Jean. I felt that Carla Jean's refusal to play Chigurh's game and potentially save her own life exposed the truth that Chirgurh is not some evil genius following his own principles, but rather a banal killer whose is just very violent and ruthless. Carla Jean decision shows that if you refuse to play Chigurh's meaningless game, he in fact becomes meaningless and pathetic. And in the end, it's the wife who triumphs.

Jeff Osteen said...

It was a dream??? Ugh, now I feel a bit stupid and confused. Maybe I should just stick with the less complex films (or, better yet, wait until reading your blog before seeing).

Anonymous said...

I don't want to see the film after reading your blog.....ALL the people in Idaho aren't THAT BAD. I live here. sm

Anonymous said...

(spoiler alert)
this is a powerful film that i feel transcends the mechanics of the storyline and suggests the human grasping for an understanding of what is randomness or fate in our lives, expemplified when Chigurh says to Carla Jean that 'he came into her life in the same way the coin did.' That line blew my mind. but, i've also read the book and this is one instance in which the translation into a different art form sometimes exceeds the original-- in the book, she takes the coin flip . . . and loses.