Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Unpacking the Coens

I just saw No Country for Old Men on Saturday night. A continual project of mine is attempting to decipher what makes the Coens such great artists of film. This movie clarifies matters insofar as it cleaves the story from the direction. The story, apparently scene for scene, is not property of the Coens but rather McCarthy. When the unforeseen inevitability occurs it is does not come from the mind of the Coens. I found the story rather reminiscent of Fargo, as the story is not the plot, and the characters actions represent something wholly other than they understand.

What the Coens, then, understand is how to tell that story. What tone, meter, saturation to give a monologue. What a sunset looks like. When a character is best portrayed as his reflection in a Technicolor television set. How the story moves and how we move within that story. They understand, better than any living director, how to tell as story. Spielberg and others make stories, the Coens tell them.

I think it will be a long time before I get Jones's pronunciation of "maisure" out of my head. For the best.

Sailing to Byzantium

That is no country for old men. The young
In one another's arms, birds in the trees -
Those dying generations - at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.

An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.

O sages standing in God's holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing-masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.

Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.

-- William Butler Yeats

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