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Anders

Fargo (1996)

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What with the upcoming release of Intolerable Cruelty, and the release of this special edition DVD today, I thought I'd give Fargo a spin, seeing as I hadn't seen it in a good 4-5 years. A few random thoughts:

This was the first Coen Bros. film I'd ever seen. And it's still great. Not my favorite of their's, those honours go to The Big Lebowski or O Brother, Where Art Thou depending on my mood, but it's still really good.

I know that a lot of people on the board have mentioned that the Coen's almost seem to dislike there characters, that there's an almost mocking, cruel tone in the way some of the characters in the film are portrayed. However, in the case of Margie and her husband, I found their scenes rather touching. One of the more gentle portrayals of marriage I can recall in recent films.

Also, Steve Buscemi, I love the guy. He's such a scumbag in this film, but still I crack a smile every time he's on screen.

The scariest part of the film was the fact that N. Dakota and Minneapolis look so much like parts of Saskatchewan. Quite frightening actually.

What does everyone else think?

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I know that a lot of people on the board have mentioned that the Coen's almost seem to dislike there characters, that there's an almost mocking, cruel tone in the way some of the characters in the film are portrayed.

I'm not one of those people. I think the Coens have far more affection for their cast of oddballs than many give them credit for.

But I also think that a caricature is not always a bad thing. If it is meant to make a mockery of people, that's one thing. But if it is meant to exaggerate inappropriate behavior in order to draw our attention to it, that can be a good thing. Isn't that what most political cartoonists do? There are a lot of political cartoonists who do a lot of good by finally putting into simple clear expression what many never find the guts to say.

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Anders wrote:

: This was the first Coen Bros. film I'd ever seen.

Mine was Raising Arizona.

: However, in the case of Margie and her husband, I found their scenes

: rather touching. One of the more gentle portrayals of marriage I can

: recall in recent films.

What do you make of Margie's scene with her former classmate? The last time I saw this film (which was admittedly a few years ago), I came away with the profoundly sad sense that this film was telling us that people are all locked inside their own separate worlds, and there is no way to connect with each other on a deeper, more spiritual level. And no, while Margie and her husband do seem to get along, I don't think they transcend this -- at least not in their interactions with people outside their personal world. I think this sense of impenetrable separation is one of the reasons critics sometimes say the Coens look down on their characters or regard them as freakish robots or puppets or whatever.

: The scariest part of the film was the fact that N. Dakota and Minneapolis

: look so much like parts of Saskatchewan. Quite frightening actually.

Look ... and sound, too! That was my first impression, at any rate, and I say this after spending a year at a Bible school north of S'toon.

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What do you make of Margie's scene with her former classmate?

Peter,

I thought a lot about this scene and its purpose at the time I saw the film and could not, for the life of me, figure out what it had to do with everything else. Then I read something that struck me as plausible. Someone (I have no idea who -- I read this years ago) noted that it is after this scene with her classmate that Margie begins to question some of the things she seems to have taken at face value before now (i.e., she goes back to the dealership to talk to Jerry Lundegard again).

The thinking was that the encounter with her classmate, who deceives her with his tale of woe about his wife dying (remember when she talks to a friend on the phone afterward and finds out he never married that person and that she is in fact alive and well?) made her question her own instincts as a cop, so she retraces some of her steps -- which leads to Jerry "fleeing the interview," which leads to her discovering the truth.

It's one theory, anyway, and I thought it was at least plausible.

Chris

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The Man with the Job Interview:

: But I also think that a caricature is not always a bad thing...f it is

: meant to exaggerate inappropriate behavior in order to draw our

: attention to it, that can be a good thing. Isn't that what most political

: cartoonists do?

That must be the reason I generally like neither the Coens' films nor political cartoons.

Dale

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: : What do you make of Margie's scene with her former classmate?

: :

: Someone...noted that it is after this scene with her classmate that

: Margie begins to question some of the things she seems to have taken

: at face value before now (i.e., she goes back to the dealership to talk to

: Jerry Lundegard again).

I'm not a particular fan of the film, but that's always been my take: The dishonesty shown to Margie in that scene was the catalyst for her second meeting with William H. -- finding out that her former classmate lied helps her make the decision not to take Macy at his word.

Dale

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M. Dale Prins wrote:

: chansen wrote:

: : : What do you make of Margie's scene with her former classmate?

: :

: : Someone . . . noted that it is after this scene with her classmate that

: : Margie begins to question some of the things she seems to have taken

: : at face value before now (i.e., she goes back to the dealership to talk

: : to Jerry Lundegard again).

:

: I'm not a particular fan of the film, but that's always been my take: The

: dishonesty shown to Margie in that scene was the catalyst for her second

: meeting with William H. -- finding out that her former classmate lied

: helps her make the decision not to take Macy at his word.

That's a fair interpretation of the scene from a plot point of view. But I think the scene also plays into that thematic idea that I mentioned, too. Even after Margie discovers that lies are possible, and even after she uncovers those lies, she still doesn't quite 'understand' the people she's investigating. I don't remember the scene very well, but I do remember that there was something in the way she talks to Peter Stormare's character in the police car that left me with that people-are-isolated-in-their-own-separate-spheres feeling.

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I saw this for the first time on Monday, and I kind of liked it, but I felt I wasn't getting it, if you know what you mean. Like I just loved the snowiness of it all, and the music, but the story did nothing for me & I didn't find it that funny.

Anyone got a good review anywhere?

Matt

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If a film brings you deep joy, laughter, interesting characters and plot, and holds you glued to the screen - isn't that a film for the spirit?

And so what is a "spiritual film?"

Does it have to do with evil and good? Or redemption? Or great emotional depths?

Or what about a film that is just plain wonderful?

Marge is an unforgettable character full of humor, smart, and loving. Some of the other characters are not so great, and they have their weaknesses, but they are wonderfully human.

The whole film was two hours of joy for me. And somehow that translates into a joyous, spiritual experience.

Sara

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"Glee" and "joy" are not the same thing.

I did not experience "glee." There were too many murders, etc. for me to feel "glee."

But the overall experience I had from the film was one of "joy."

And I hold to that feeling.

Sara

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Well, we must be operating with very different definitions of "joy." I don't know how you can feel joyful watching a depiction of violent murder, any more than you can feel gleeful. How would you define "joy"?

I like Marge too, but there are lots of scenes where she isn't on the screen and some pretty disturbing things are happening. So I don't think your affection for Marge is sufficient to support a statement like

The whole film was two hours of joy for me.

I don't know you, but I don't think you really mean that. I knew a person who was gleeful all the way through this film (because he couldn't stop laughing at the Midwest accents), but I can't imagine someone feeling joy at watching people get shot in the face.

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So if you ever find yerself up to Fargo, make sure to stop on by the Fargo Visitors Center and have yer picture taken next to this...

Chipperpic-3.jpg

If yer sayin' to yerself, "That there looks like the wood chipper from the film", well... yer darn tootin' it is. That ain't no replica, it's the real McCoy. They'll even let you pose in one of them floppy eared, fur lined caps that was worn by Peter Stormare, while pressing down on the leg...

santa-5.jpg

Then, you can head on over to Fargo Fest, where you could enter a drawing to win a 1989 burnt umber Cierra. Yeah, the car in the film was an '87, but an '89's nothing to look down your nose at. Then sit back, relax, and watch the film Fargo projected onto a wall of downtown Fargo's largest building... The Radisson (you can't make this stuff up!).

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Hmmm... it's strange, but just knowing that someone gets fed into a woodchipper - and it's played for laughs - has always stopped me from seeing this film. Not out of any moral condemnation, but just physical queasiness. I've watched films which are definitely more violent or sadistic than this, but Fargo just 'gets' me in an undefinable way. Pity. I bet Frances McDormand is brilliant.

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Hmmm... it's strange, but just knowing that someone gets fed into a woodchipper - and it's played for laughs - has always stopped me from seeing this film. Not out of any moral condemnation, but just physical queasiness. I've watched films which are definitely more violent or sadistic than this, but Fargo just 'gets' me in an undefinable way. Pity. I bet Frances McDormand is brilliant.

Oh.... believe me... it's not played for laughs. At least not when it came out. The trouble is, outside of the film that moment has been played for laughs, like my post above, and it's unfortunate that people who haven't seen the film may have been predisposed to see this scene as funny. And marketers of the film haven't helped. Not when they present something like this as an incentive to purchase the DVD...

Fargo-Snowglobe.jpg

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Looks like this thread need to be combined with this one.

Hmmm... it's strange, but just knowing that someone gets fed into a woodchipper - and it's played for laughs - has always stopped me from seeing this film. Not out of any moral condemnation, but just physical queasiness. I've watched films which are definitely more violent or sadistic than this, but Fargo just 'gets' me in an undefinable way. Pity. I bet Frances McDormand is brilliant.

Oh.... believe me... it's not played for laughs. At least not when it came out. The trouble is, outside of the film that moment has been played for laughs, like my post above, and it's unfortunate that people who haven't seen the film may have been predisposed to see this scene as funny. And marketers of the film haven't helped.

It is a short little scene that gets way too much focus. It is not the scene that the film should be known for. I'd argue that avoiding the film, because of everyone else's obsession with this scene, would be a mistake. The Coen brothers are doing far more with this film than playing murders for laughs and to think that is what they are doing is to sell them short. There is a moral order to Fargo. It's inevitable, a little claustrophobic, a little predictable and somehow mesmerizing. As far as the initial discussion of "joy" in the newer thread goes, one of the things that makes Fargo different is that the married couple, Marge and Norm Gunderson, are characters who could be said to really possess joy. It's part of what makes the story compelling. In Fargo's dark, bloody and fatalistic universe, you have this couple like the Gundersons. The contrast, and any reflection upon this contrast, is completely intentional.

Oh, and regarding those pictures of the wood chipper ... why the hell are the majority of those people, knowingly posing next to it, 6-to-7-year-olds?

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I�m sure others share your sentiment, Sara, but I despise �Fargo.� Images of someone being fed through a woodchipper � played for laughs, no less! � don�t leave me edified.

I agree, though, that Frances McDormand gives a nice performance.

Quoting myself above, from August 2005, for those who haven't read the full thread. I've sat through the film at least one more time since then, and my opinion has only hardened. I. Don't. Like. This Film. I want to, but I don't.

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I just saw this for the first time earlier this year... honestly, I did not think the wood chipper was the thing played for laughs in the film... it was Stormare's reaction as he realizes he cannot really get out of this and then runs.

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I love that this thread is called "Fargo - joy for the spirit." I'm tempted to start a thread called "Sinister - smiles for the heart."

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