Blood Simple.: Re-watch

The Coen Brothers have become known throughout most of the film world as two of the finest directors working today, and their debut feature Blood Simple. was early evidence of the absolute genius these two hold within their incomparable minds. The film is a classic noir premise brought into the dark depths of the ’80s, yet mixed with the sharp and grim humor that the Coens would soon become famous for. Marty (Dan Hedaya, in one of his best scene-stealing supporting roles) hires private detective Visser (M. Emmet Walsh) to find out if his wife Abby (Frances McDormand) is sleeping with his employee Ray (John Getz). He is, of course, and the consequences spiral through this small setting with bloody results for all four of them.

Blood Simple. is loaded with sharp twists, ulterior motives and false assumptions and each character finds themselves falling into hot water that they struggle to get out of. The Coens, who wrote the picture as well as directing it, play it all straight with a violence that foreshadows the bluntness of some of their later work, primarily No Country for Old Men. It’s interesting, with all of the turns and mistakes that these characters make along the way, this could easily have been done by them in a more absurd comedic style, similar to their work on Burn After Reading. They play it all as moody and bleak as possible though, with the help of an atmospheric score by the great Carter Burwell and some of the finest cinematography I’ve ever laid eyes on at the hands of Barry Sonnenfeld (future director of the Men in Black series).

One of the new things that stuck out to me on this repeated viewing of the film was just how damn funny it could be at times. Blood Simple. might just be their darkest picture, but they still manage to get in a few great lines or darkly comic moments that got some solid chuckles out of me. Possibly the most morbid scene of the film, in which a character is buried alive, ends with the person responsible getting back into their car and having difficulty with it starting back up. It’s a moment of unbelievably intense morbidness, which is then directly contrasted by a black laugh. The Coens would continue to hit this balance throughout their career, but I never realized just what a great start they got off to with it here.

Blood Simple. is an excellent throwback to the noir of old, while also bringing those dark tones into the modern era and marking the dawn of one (or two) of the finest directors in modern cinema. I consider the Coens to be among the five best directors in cinematic history, and this debut stands as one of the best first features I’ve ever seen.

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