The one that started it all. Started them all?!
Before we had ‘Miller’s Crossing’, ‘Fargo’, and ‘No Country For Old Men’, Joel and Ethan Coen were just two Minnesota boys lookin’ to make a film. Their 1984 debut, ‘Blood Simple‘, is the one that built the foundation for their over three decades of monumental filmmaking. It may not be the most polished affair, but their trademark quirky characters, black humor, inventive cinematography, extreme violence, and simple plots gone way wrong are all here.
An inventive introduction byway of credit sequence guides us to our two protagonists, bartender Ray (John Getz) and his mistress, the boss’ wife Abby (Frances McDormand, brilliant). With a smarmy P.I. (a scene stealing M. Emmet Walsh) and Abby’s husband Julian (Dan Hedaya in full-on creepo mode) slithering around an unease begins to settle in around this budding, forbidden romance.
Like many of the Coens’ later films the plot is simple, the characters and the unfolding “hiccups” are not. With everyone trying to rip-off, frame, betray, and/or kill each other. As the schemes begin to unravel these characters with their tragically fatal flaws completely implode. And we just sit back to enjoy the ensuing mayhem.
Cinematographer (and future ‘Men in Black’ director) Barry Sonnenfeld caught his break in this film. With a minimal budget, Sonnenfeld masterfully creates a colorful noir-ish world filled with flourishes of seamless transitions and first person tracking shots. And Carter Burwell delivers his first in a 40+ year career of breathtakingly stark and longingly beautiful film scores.
Everything has a beginning. And ‘Blood Simple‘ was not only one of the first independent films to go big, it gave us our first view into the wonderfully macabre world of Joel and Ethan Coen. An essential watch for all movie fans.