Blood Simple.

Review No. 455

There’s nothing “Simple” about a mystery like this one.

NOTE: This review regards the director’s cut, which was released in 2001. This is a rare example of such an edition that is shorter (by 6 minutes) than the theatrical release. Per the usual, I don’t know what the theatrical cut is like, but my review states that I’m not moved to watching it.

Directed by: Joel Coen
Written by: Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
Ray: John Getz
Abby: Frances McDormand
Julian Marty: Dan Hedaya
Meurice: Samm-Art Williams
Loren Visser: M. Emmet Walsh
Also Starring: Deborah Neumann

Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer on January 18, 1985. Produced in English by the United States. Runs 93 mins. Rated R by the MPAA–violence, infrequent profanity. Director’s cut released unrated by the MPAA.

Blood Simple. was watched on March 27, 2013.

“You left your weapon behind.” –Ray (John Getz)

Brothers Joel and Ethan Coen can deny all they want. It took them years to admit that Fargo was not based on a true story. They claim to have made O Brother, Where Art Thou? without having read the oh-so-similar epic poem Odyssey. And they can deny that Blood Simple. is an homage to one of the greatest filmmakers of all-time.

Make no mistake, Blood Simple. is a reverent nod to Alfred Hitchcock. The Coen brothers designed this movie–their collaborative debut–as a loop of vignettes that resurrect elements we only really knew of the Master of Suspense.

A bored man gets pissed off one night and rashly hires another man to kill two people: his wife and a man with whom she is having an affair. Sounds like Strangers on a Train, right? In another instance, we experience Dial “M” for Murder: the wife is suspicious her husband wants to kill her. Oh and as the film progresses, she begins to see her husband, but isn’t he dead? The same sort of thing Jimmy Stewart goes through in Vertigo.

Where the film trips is in the manner it explains its story. Sometimes a perplexing story can be inventive enough to beg for a revisit, but Blood Simple. is a “once is enough” sort of film.

I’d say this was told in a nonlinear fashion, but if that’s so, the Coens could have presented that technique accessibly, and symbolism would have been presented much differently.

I give you fair warning that my logic up ahead my befuddle you half as much as Blood Simple. befuddled me. The recurring symbolism here is the appearance of blood. The lead character is bleeding from his broken nose, the gunshot wound in his heart, and his lacerated finger. It’s possible that after he’s been shot, he’s no more than a figment of the surrounding folks’ imaginations, but god, there’s so much that suggests otherwise.

Mr. Joel and Ethan Coen, I don’t want to criticize (well, technically, I do, considering the noun form), but you could have done a lot more using just one more Hitchcockian device: perspective. I love the cinematography here and the sound effects, but there’s scarcely a point-of-view. We know the characters, we just don’t know what they’re seeing or feeling here.

There certainly isn’t as much comedy in Blood Simple. as in the Coens’ later works, such as Fargo or The Big Lebowski. It’s a rather quiet, brooding, atmospheric film that manages to create chills in its technical style as well as its Hitchcockian setup.

Despite its dreadlocked story, I didn’t dislike Blood Simple. I expected more of it, but if one thing impressed me, it was that it manages to hold its own, though, as a gritty, mysterious thriller. It’s essentially nothing more than an homage to the better, more straightforward flicks of its ilk, but at the very least, it manages to entertain its audience.



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