"I mean, I guess we all have that Barton Fink feeling, but since you're Barton Fink, I'm assuming you have it in spades."

I'm watching the Coen Brothers' Barton Fink, which has become, over time, my favorite Coen Brothers film. I think it's gone up through the ranks in direct proportion to my own timeline of vocational discovery (I'm a writer, too. Just like Barton Fink!). I think it really nails... something, something very accurate, about the state of being a writer. Or states, I should say: The emotional state, the physical state, your societal status, your relationship to the world around you. It's hardly a pretty or glamorous thing- their brilliant inclusion of the washed-up-drunk Faulkner figure is no accident.

It's also a movie about writers and films. It's about Louis Mayer. It's about Old Hollywood. It's about the (Old) New American Theater. It's a cosmic goof on film narrative itself; it was playing Adaptation's metafictional game before there was an Adaptation. It's a movie shamelessly geared towards culture-lovers; if you haven't read, read about, or otherwise heard of The Day of the Locust, Sullivan's Travels, or the whole Faulkner-goes-to-Hollywood debauchery, you won't be entirely able to tap into this particular juggernaut. I'm enough of a film geek that Barton was actually my introduction to all of those things; I knew there was something there, so I dug in, did a little research, went to the sources. Over time, the pieces fell into place, the gaps in my own frame of reference. Now, it's all come full circle; I can watch the film with delight and amazement.

Why research? Doesn't that take the "fun" out of it? Absolutely not. I've come to the point in my writing and filmgoing and general obession with popular culture to feel thusly: If you're going to come down with this sickness, this fever, at least do it right. If you don't "get" something, don't attack the creator; find the chinks in your cultural armor and fill 'em in. If this is where you derive pleasure, if this is your favored topic of thought, analysis, and discussion, take it as far as you can, and try to push it further. If you're one of the truly devoted, lazy head-scratching won't even occur to you as an option. These days of instant messaging and the Web and e-mail don't have to just spell the end of literacy and personal/social communication skills; they can also mean that nobody has to be culturally illiterate, ever again. The number of people who share my excitement over this is bound to be underwhelming, of course, but I know they're out there...

The ending of Barton Fink. Q: "Are you in pictures?" A: "Don't be silly." It is sheer, sheer narrative perfection, perfect tone, perfect closure. It resonates, it gratifies every impulse the film has, it accomplishes everything it's reaching for. It's one of the purest movie climaxes I can think of.
Comments: Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Subscribe to Posts [Atom]