Barton Fink (1991)

Barton Fink (1991), directed by Joel and Ethan Coen.


It's hot. Charlie's back.

I remember those few of us who saw this back then all said the same thing: "That was interesting. What the hell was that?"

The story I remember was that this one began when the Coens were frustrated by obstacles during production of Miller's Crossing (1990). It does seem to have been born in a bitter mood. The humor is pretty dark.

I don't have a theory of the plot. Charlie seems to be Barton's alter-ego, the authentic common man he longs to be, his anger unleashed. John Goodman is just stupendous.

When we hit the decrepit LA hotel with those ominous hallways and peeling wallpaper, the David Lynch alarms start going off. Barton's haircut looks just like Henry's in Eraserhead (1977).

Everyone says Barton is meant to represent writer Clifford Odets, and that fits pretty well. His New York circle winces when he rants about "the common man" and "the people's theater" and I have the same response to Odets. I don't say he is a bad writer, just that I can hear his voice in his screenplays, which is distracting. Here he seems to be in Hell, unable to write anything but the same play over and over. His fear is that is all he has in him.

Writer W.P. Mayhew is clearly William Faulkner.

Note this is set just before WW2. The anti-Semitic detectives are named Mastrionotti and Deutsch, about as Italian and German as you can get. Charlie takes care of them.

My thumbnails are from a Universal all-region import Blu-ray. As I write this in October 2016 I see a North American Blu-ray is due from Kino.