Friday, 16 July 2010

Barton Fink

Barton Fink
Barton Fink, directed by Joel Coen in collaboration with his brother Ethan, is set in 1940s Hollywood. The title character (played by John Turturro, with a haircut like Eraserhead's Jack Nance) arrives at a dilapidated and seemingly deserted hotel, where he will attempt to write a B-movie script. Steve Buscemi has a cameo as the hotel porter, Chet. Fink is interrupted by his neighbour, Charlie Meadows (played by John Goodman), who gives him a mysterious box; like the briefcase in Pulp Fiction, its contents are never revealed, though presumably the ending of Seven would be an apt comparison.

The Coens have cited Roman Polanski's The Tenant and Repulsion as influences, and those films both feature delusional, isolated characters. Kubrick's The Shining was surely also influential, both narratively (writer's block) and stylistically (tracking shots in hotel corridors). Barton Fink's Hotel Earle, which could be interpreted as a symbolic hell, may indeed be as malicious as The Shining's Overlook Hotel. Barton Fink seems loaded with symbolism; as with Shutter Island and Inception, numerous theories and explanations have been expounded, and arguably some of the more melodramatic events exist only in the central character's paranoid imagination.

The film won the Palme d'Or at Cannes in 1991. Several of its leaders actors have also appeared in other Coen brothers films: Turturro and Buscemi in Miller's Crossing; Turturro and Goodman in O Brother, Where Art Thou?; Turturro, Goodman, and Buscemi in The Big Lebowski; Goodman in Raising Arizona; and Buscemi in The Hudsucker Proxy, Paris, Je T'Aime, and the Coens' greatest film, Fargo.

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