Friday, October 26, 2018

"Barton Fink": Coen Brothers make a layered period piece film noir about screenwriting; where the external carnage becomes the screenplay

I mentioned “Barton Fink” today in reviewing “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”.  I remember seeing this black comedy back in late 1991 at the Shirlington Theater in Arlington VA, on a Saturday afternoon, in the middle of a workplace crisis.

The Coen Brothers film (directed by Joel, distributed by 20th Century Fox, without Cinemascope) deals with writers block in the screenwriting business back in 1941, but it has a David Lynch kind of look.

John Turturro plays the playwright, now hired as a screenwriter and holed up in a flop hotel (the Earle) where he thinks he can avoid writers block.  Pretty soon some bizarre events, especially involving the insurance salesman Charlie (John Goodman) next door, and later a novelist Mayhew (John Mahoney), and a secretary Audrey (Judy Davis) who claims to have ghostwritten most of Mayhew’s work. Then there is a lot of gratuitous violence that generates Barton’s script.
So this is some kind of layering.

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