Thursday, October 15, 2009

Coen brothers play cerebral pursuit in A Serious Man

Posted By on Thu, Oct 15, 2009 at 4:15 PM

click to enlarge SHLEMIEL, SHLEMAZEL! Michael Stuhlbarg stars as the bumbling Larry Gopnik in the Coen brothers' A Serious Man.
  • SHLEMIEL, SHLEMAZEL! Michael Stuhlbarg stars as the bumbling Larry Gopnik in the Coen brothers' A Serious Man.

Filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen give the impression of having mixed feelings about cerebral pursuits. One of their most unforgettable images comes at the climax of Barton Fink, when John Goodman hefts a shotgun, barrels down a combustible hotel corridor and bellows, “LOOK UPON ME! I’LL SHOW YOU THE LIFE OF THE MIND!”

Audiences might duck behind their theater seats after learning that the Coens take another look at the life of the mind with A Serious Man. Their latest head-spinner finds cinema’s most renowned brother act at the height of their creative powers for their first venture into their own childhoods. A Serious Man could be the opposite side of the coin flipped by Javier Bardem’s hitman in their Oscar-winner No Country For Old Men. The Southwestern crime drama depicted men of action at odds in a stark, uncaring landscape, while A Serious Man’s seriocomic parable presents thoughtful, scholarly figures being pranked by an equally indifferent universe.

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(Photo courtesy Focus Features)

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