Monday, April 7, 2008

O Brother, Where Art Thou?

O Brother, Where Art Thou?; Comedy, USA, 2000; D: Joel Coen, S: George Clooney, John Turturro, Tim Blake Nelson, Holly Hunter, John Goodman, Charles Durning, Michael Badalucco

Mississippi, 1930's. Convicts Ulysses, Delmar and Pete manage to escape from the guard and hide in the woods. Ulysses leads them in search for a treasure he hid. They settle down at Pete's cousin but he betrays them to the police so they steal his car and escape. They record a song at a radio station for which everyone one of them gets 10 $. On their way they meet robber George who is excited by crime, an African American musician and "mermaids" who cause them to fall asleep with their voice. When Pete disappears, Delmar concludes he was transformed into a frog. When they finally find Pete, Ulysses admits that there is no treasure and that he only wants to prevent his ex-wife to marry someone else. He succeeds while the Governor declares them free men.

A Golden Globe for George Clooney as best actor in a motion picture - musical or comedy and nominations for the Golden Palm in Cannes, BAFTA and Oscar for best screenplay were reasons enough to allure fans of the Coen brothers to declare their comedy "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" a top notch film, but the more sober viewers realized that the famous directors weren't especially inspired. Of course, their visual style and some camera tricks are wonderful while some gags are funny, like when a blind man inexplicably guesses everything about the lives of the convicts and predicts their future, causing Ulysses to later explain it with: "Blind men don't have sight, so I guess their other senses are enhanced, like parapsychological powers", yet the majority of the humor is lame and overstretched, the parallels with Homer's epic Odyssey are practically forced, except the one with the cyclops (John Goodman plays a man with an eye patch), the sirens and hero's ex-wife, while the vague subplot involving the three protagonists becoming musicians is especially irritating, so that the oscillation of the rhythm is felt, even though already the sole title of the film is very clever, a sly reference to Preston Sturges' satire "Sullivan's Travels" where the hero, a director, announced he wants to make a film called "O Brother, Where Art Thou".


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