nominal director

Coen Brothers

Perpetually precocious sibling dyad responsible for the most feted and controversial American cinematic oeuvre of the last decade. Joel (b. 1955), an NYU film school graduate, is nominal director, while Ethan (b. 1958), a Princeton philosophy grad, is ostensible producer.

Nevertheless their six-feature-film output is a full-blown collaboration (originally using the joint pseudonym Roderick James), with the brothers’ collectively rampant obsessions providing the occasion for recasting the history of American film in a series of droll homages that blend arch parody and terminally black comedy.

Their 1984 debut, Blood Simple, for instance, was a studious replication of noir classics, while the 1987 follow-up Raising Arizona amped the classic screwball comedy with hyper-farcical conceits and Miller’s Crossing  (1990) reworked 1930s gangster classics.

Critics have responded with anxiously searching comparisons to everyone from James M. Cain to Dostoevsky (though The New Republic’s Stanley Kauffman says simply “I think they’re pretentious, affected… Continue reading