Thursday, October 22, 2009

On "A Serious Man"

It's hard to formulate thoughts about the Coen Brothers' latest film, "A Serious Man". Visually, their flare for precise framing and point of view is firmly intact. Carter Burwell score is quiet yet haunting. The sound design (especially a scene on the roof of a house and the almost cosmic way Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit" floats in and out on the soundtrack) is tremendous. The laughs don't come as loudly as in "Burn After Reading", but their sardonic wit opens up a ton of small, amusing moments mostly in body posture and slow reaction shots. Still, there's something very hard to crack about "A Serious Man". Perhaps it's the almost oppressive air of 'Jewishness' about the film. I know very, very little about this style of religion, so the film's opening- some type of Jewish parable about a dybbuk visiting a couple in what I'm guessing to be Biblical times- immediately threw me for a loop. I'm still not completely sure how this ties in with the rest of the film. Other parts of "A Serious Man" are just as head-scratching, partly due to my own knowledge-incompetence and partly due to Joel and Ethan Coen's playfully oblique way of doling out information. I should, after all, be used to the Coen Brothers and their startling methods of presenting comedy and drama by now, but this is a film that probably deserves multiple viewings. Still, their track record for sucking the air out of the theater with a supremely anti-climacic finale has found its way into their third successive feature and will surely crank out just as much discussion as "No Country For Old Men".

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