Barton Fink

THERE’S ONLY ONE THING STRANGER THAN WHAT’S GOING ON INSIDE HIS HEAD. WHAT’S GOING ON OUTSIDE.

bartonfinkIn 1941, left-leaning, Jewish playwright Barton Fink (John Turturro) leaves New York City for Hollywood to try his luck as a screenwriter and is hired by a studio that makes B pictures. Coen brothers films are always dark to some degree, but this one is really serious about it. They allow the unsettling story of Barton Fink’s relationship with an abusive, alcoholic colleague and his “secretary” to emerge slowly. The symbolism is heavy and leads up to a fiery climax that looks like a vision of hell… or the incinerators in Nazi death camps. Great acting; John Goodman finds an opportunity to display a darker streak and Michael Lerner is hilarious as the studio boss.

1991-U.S. 117 min. Color. Produced by Ethan Coen. Directed by Joel Coen. Screenplay: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen. Cast: John Turturro (Barton Fink), John Goodman (Charlie Meadows), Judy Davis (Audrey Taylor), Michael Lerner, John Mahoney, Tony Shalhoub… Steve Buscemi. Cameo: Barry Sonnenfeld.

Trivia: Frances McDormand’s voice can be heard in a scene.

Cannes: Palme d’Or, Best Director, Actor (Turturro).

Last word: “In retrospect, we were enthusiastic about the idea that the world outside the hotel was finding itself on the eve of the apocalypse since, for America, 1941 was the beginning of the Second World War. That seemed to us to suit the story. The other reason – which was never truly realized in the film – was that we were thinking of a hotel where the lodgers were old people, the insane, the physically handicapped, because all the others had left for the war. The further the script was developed, the more this theme got left behind, but it had led us, in the beginning, to settle on that period.” (Joel Coen, Positif)

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