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Primal Fear: The Coen Brothers’ “A Serious Man”

Primal Fear: The Coen Brothers' "A Serious Man"

No one likes a big, meaty ferbissenah punim more than Joel and Ethan Coen. That is to say, the brother filmmakers, whose penchant for accessible eccentricity has made them America’s go-to just-off-mainstream directors, love to fill their wide screens with sourly expressive faces—the more contorted, enraged, or grotesque the better. This is one of the many reasons (along with such not insignificant matters as omniscient narrative detachment, region-specific parody, comic death scenarios, etc.) that the Coens are tagged as misanthropes: often their onscreen figures take on the mien of gargoyles. If this is the case, should we say their characters are reduced to mere objects, or elevated to statue status?

It’s conceivable that their simultaneous adoration and mockery of the human face and form, often captured in intimidating, distorting low-angles, hearkens back to some snide, untrusting view of adults forged in childhood. Yet thus far the Coens have never given us anything resembling a peek into their pasts, and even if they did intentionally, it would almost certainly be played as some sort of elaborate misdirect. But perhaps inevitably, something personal has surfaced. Click here to read the rest of Michael Koresky’s review of A Serious Man.

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