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Barton Fink (1991)


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No thread on this, it seems.

I wish I could do something like justice to all the things going on in this film. It's obviously a very dark portrayal of the writing process (and, I suppose, the art-making process in general) and the demons that can arise from it. And it's very honest in facing the perversity of the mind of a writer, who can so easily come to care more about describing the world than observing it, and writing about people rather than listening to them. It takes well-deserved shots at both highbrow and popular culture. It's a playful dance through various dialogue and visual styles. It's both a tribute and a send-up of the history of the cinema. (I caught the Godfather reference, for example; no doubt many others went over my head.)

But I feel like there's something more going on, something I can't quite put my finger on. In the end, it seems hard to say whether Barton's troubles are his just punishment or simply the doom that awaits all artists. In some mysterious way, the untold depths of darkness and evil in which his naive strivings for the "common man" land him are an integral part of his creative process. It's not clear, however, whether this involves any true redemption, or what the nature is of the baggage that this horror saddles him with and which he apparently feels the need neither to examine and face up to, nor to discard once and for all.

The difference between good and bad art is questioned and blurred, and so is the line between art and life - even mediocre, boring art. All these questions come together in the radically unresolved ending, which left one of the friends I was watching the movie with actually yelling at the TV again and again in an ecstasy of frustration: "F*** you, Coen brothers! F*** you, Coen brothers! F*** you, Coen brothers!"

I think this is a film worth going back to and studying. At this point, I'm not even certain whether I liked it, though I think I did. But I know I want to think about it more.

I know there are a few people on this board who count this among their favorite movies. What do you all think?

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