’It started with these three dopes escaping prison and became more about one of them trying to get home, which suggested
Last May Joel and Ethan Coen, George Clooney, John Tuturro, Tim Blake Nelson and Holly Hunter were in Cannes to promote 0 Brother, Where Art Thou? But if the news hounds thought they were going to get serious answers about this screwball comedy they were very mistaken.
Words: Miles Fielder
The press conference in ('annes' Palais du Festival for () Brut/lei: lilit’l't’ Art Thou.” starts straightforwardly enough with a question about the film's origins. to which Joel answers: 'The name ol~ the movie comes from Sullivan 's 'I'rurels. it comes from the movie that Joel McCrea's film director wants to make. an “important lilm". We sort ol‘ imagined it as being the lilm he would have made if he had had the chance to do an important lilm. And had he been a big fan of American roots music.‘
However. a (‘anadian journo's phrasing ol‘ the next question doesn’t bode well: ‘lt‘s sometimes pointless to ask questions about where ideas come from. btit . . .‘ Joel: ‘Homer and American roots music. it’s a natural really . . . These are really hard questions.’ lithan hails his brother otit: ‘It's hard to say how these things develop. It started with these three dopes escaping prison and became more about one of them trying to get home. which suggested The ()(lvssev. though we’d never read it.‘ Joel: ‘\\'e knew a few stories. so we threw those in. And Mississippi in the 30s. we liked that music so that crept in there and . . . yeah.‘
Then they I'umblc answers to a string ol‘ dul‘l‘
questions: Do you know why the musical genre is back'.’ lithan: '.\'o idea.‘ Why are there so many blind people in the lilm‘.’ Joel: ‘I don‘t know the answer to that‘. lithan: ‘Well. you know Homer was blind. Actually. I don't know il‘ that's true.‘ Did you write the script with the cast in mind‘.’ Joel: ‘None ol’ them
The Odyssey, though we’d never read it' Ethan Coen
are personally like the characters they play. so who knows'." Why did you give the name of Homer to the bad guy'.’ lithan: ‘I don‘t know. Homer is a really common public joke name in the L'nited States.‘
A French critic changes tack by asking the actors about dealing with social. economic. political issues through slapstick l‘un. Nelson: ‘The higher the stakes. whether you're dealing with drama or comedy. the easier it is for you to come up with the goods: you play the situation. That we were destitute and on the run from the law during the Depression helped enormously.~ (‘looneyz 'All ol~ those problems |poverty. political corruption. racisml existed at that time. The way you deal with it is by not dealing with it and showing how ridiculous it is.‘ 'l‘uturro sends the room into an explosion ol‘ laughter with: ‘The big problem in the 1930s was the lack ol‘ health coverage. lt‘s rellectcd in the characters‘ teeth. mine and Tim’s. You notice (ieorge is the only person who has health coverage. For me. it's a big statement about how important dentistry is. and that's the only reason I was in the lilm.‘
Things finally seem to get back on a more serious track when an American journalist enquires about the l‘ilm‘s soundtrack. ‘lithan and l are both big l’ans of this kind ol‘ music.‘ says Joel. ‘liarly American roots music or early country. it‘s really American l‘olk music. It started to really inform the script. it began to take over the script as we got deeper into it to the point where it almost became a musical in our minds. lt established the tone ol‘ the movie.‘
But (‘Iooney adds a footnote: ‘1 jtist wanted to get into l‘ilms where I could do period musicals about dentistry.‘
Warning: Joel and Ethan Coen are convicted practical jokers. To wit: they are suspected of inventing a fictional collaborator, film editor Roderick Jaynes, resident of Hove, Sussex and collector of Margaret Thatcher nudes, some drawn from life, allegedly.
tit: Glasgow GFT,’ Edinburgh: F/lnihouse from Fri 15 Set) See rewew
'Early American roots music or early country started to really inform the script. It established the tone of the mOVie.'Joel Coen
Lights, camera, action . . .
EDINBURGH FILM FESTIVAL post-festival thoughts. Digital innovation was much in evidence at this, the first 21st century edition of the longest continually- running film festival in the world. The opening night film, Lars von Trier’s homage to the Hollywood musical Dancer In The Dark (see review), kicked things off. The trend continued with The King Is Alive, the fourth Dogme film appropriately enough (von Trier co- created that back-to-basics filmmaking manifesto), and two Scottish films, May Miles Thomas’ Glasgow-set One Life Stand and Bernard Rudden’s Edinburgh- set Daybreak. But is was Mike Figgis who pushed the envelope with Time Code, four improvised dramas, shot simultaneously and projected onto a four way split screen — and Figgis performed a live sound re-mix at the Film Festival. Cinema may never be the same again.
AS ALWAYS there were a number of films that may never again be screened in this country You probabiy don’t want to hear about those titres though, do you? I’ll just mention two in that case Amores Perros, the 'lvlexican Pulp Fiction' that picked up Hm Festival’s The Guardian New Director's Award, but \‘viTICiT features dog fiqhtinq scenes that possibly contravene B’Ii'Sil law whim would exclude it from a UK release The other ‘.’(illl5iltllg film is Beaver Trilogy, Trent Harris' three-part (JOCLll‘Tt‘lTidTy/(il‘dlltd about a young man il'O'TT Utah who has a passon for impersonating Olivia Newton John Catch it, Ii for no other reason than seeing Sean Penn in drag But how7 \i'Vell, yOu
can buy Harris' weird and wo'idei'ful back (ataiogue of films and books from his website tpicturedi
wvw. cc utah edu/~th3597/atl htin BUDWEISER'S THE BIGGER PICTURE is for couch potatoes and energised clubbers alike. On Friday 29 and Saturday 30 September Budweiser, in association with The List, will transform the Leith Corn Exchange into a cinema complete with bar, couches and bean bags to screen Pulp Fiction and LA. Confidential on consecutive nights. Post the screenings, the venue will be transformed into a club night with 2am bar and DJs from Scotland's dance radio station, Beat 106. And it’s FREE! Log on to www.list.co.uk or phone 0207 349 5069 to reserve your tickets now.
'/ 2‘. Sep 2000 THE lIST 19