Two nostalgias coexist in the Coen brothers’ new project: that of the western, of course, the golden age of American cinema and a look at the folklore of its origins, as well as that of a somewhat forgotten side of cinema. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs movie was originally presented as a six-part series, the end result is an end to end of stories of disparate lengths and tones. We do not know the reasons which have motivated this change of format, but it is in any case legitimate, avoiding in particular the lengths and phases of filling which inevitably contaminate the series.
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs movie critic
The exploration of the western, a genre already visited by the duo, is the occasion for a perfectly assumed anthology, listing the sum of the clichés that compose it. Nothing will be spared us, from the convoy to the Indians, from the gold diggers to the stagecoaches, through the duels, the saloons, the desert and the snowy expanses.
The film, supported in this by a journey through a book with color illustrations introducing each segment, works above all by tables, isolating clichés (in particular, in the first two segments, the saloon and the bank, literally placed in the middle of nowhere. ), places and landscapes in which a story can occur. The use of digital technology stings the eyes a little from time to time, but Bruno Delbonnel’s beautiful photo, already on the gray and milky Inside Llewyn Davis, manages to paint the different atmospheres with a painterly veil.
Because if the accounts vary, the registers do as much. The first segment, satirical and cartoonish, portends a general parody in which burlesque humor will take pride of place. The following segment could confirm this approach, but gradually, a certain melancholy sets in, in particular by the rupture of Meal Ticket, a kind of astonishing depression where the recitation of a male actor trunk contrasts terribly with the heavy silence that is his life. off stage. While the characters spoke little, or alone (the beautiful monologue, raspy and telluric of Tom Waits facing the earth full of gold in a nature that is only waiting for his departure to regain his rights), the last third will make the share in the emancipation of dialogue.
In The Gal Who Got Rattled, the longest and most romantic segment, the synthesis between the landscapes, the thickness of the characters and their possible evolution reaches its peak. After the morbid irony of the beginnings, and the known observation of a violent and unjust world punctuated by shots as spontaneous as they were unpredictable, we give pride of place to the idea of a conquest that would be modest and would take into account the sentimental part of the beings: the clumsy cowboy eager to establish a home, the young woman emancipating herself from a silence to discover the virtues of the exchange, and the silent boor fighting the dangers of the Plain. The final segment, through the oneness of confined space of his stagecoach, carries the dialogue to the heights of vanity and character comedy, leading the wagons of the previous segments to a sepulchral conclusion, summoning both Tarantino and Maupassant.
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The unity of The Ballad of Buster Scruggs movie emerges through disparate touches, but is seen above all in the pleasure generated by the ensemble: the writing is as fine as ever, the interpretation impeccable and the actors chosen above all for their presence and the singularity of their features. So many qualities that were lacking in another pastiche film in the form of collage, Hail, Caesar! The melancholy gravity which irrigated the apparent modesty of Inside Llewyn Davis thus allows the work to go beyond the simple picture book, backward-looking homage or free pastiche, by the combination of essential forces: the pleasure of writing, the enthusiasm of pictoriality and sincerity of tenderness for this violent and yet combative human comedy.