Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Emerson on No Country for Old Men

When a first-rate critic gets obsessive about a film and then wears his obsession nakedly on his sleeve – discussing various aspects of the movie at length, over the course of many essays - the results can be very stimulating. This is something that the Internet facilitates, of course, and in the last few weeks Jim Emerson has put up a number of posts about the Coen Brothers’ No Country for Old Men on his excellent Scanners blog. Here are some of them (most of these links are recommended only if you’ve seen the film): a general analysis; the “ideological impulse” in film appreciation; the identity and motives of the killer Anton Chigurh (Homicidal lunatic or ghost? Materialist? Atheist? A personification of Death?); and an intense discussion of a key scene late in the film, when Sheriff Ed Bell enters a room where Chigurh may or may not be hiding – this discussion is continued here and here, on critic Glenn Kenny’s blog. Needless to say, the comments section on all these posts are just as vital, and Emerson and Kenny both give plenty of space to readers' feedback and opinions. (As we have noted elsewhere, blogs rule.)

P.S. Will try to do a review soon, not of the film but of Cormac McCarthy's very poetic novel (I loved them both but have already read too much about the film elsewhere and don’t think I can add anything to it).


  1. I liked the movie, have been reading various posts about it ever since I saw it. That said, I confess the first reaction me and my wife had after watching it was very similar to what Nora Ephron wrote in The New Yorker.

  2. The brilliant film that it is,(I haven't caught the book yet,like Nora Ephron says in The New Yorker)
    "No Country For Old Men" has already fallen into the tedious and,sadly,all-too familiar cycle of over-analysis.......I have seen people try to find allegories in Bardem's hairdo....or his unique bolt gun.......guys give it a break already!!!

  3. Madhav: superb piece, thanks for the link. Wish Indian publications were more open to that sort of writing.

    Aditya: personally I love "over-analysis" when it's done well and done passionately, and I think Emerson does it superbly (btw, he definitely doesn't trade in simplistic allegories of the sort you mention). Makes me wish the Internet had been around when critics like Robin Wood (Hitchcock's Films) had been around - though maybe they wouldn't have taken to it.