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Writer who doesn't want to see
tarzana31128 August 2003
Warning: Spoilers
This is my first time to comment on a film on this site. I have enjoyed reading y'all's comments. After 4 viewings, I found peace with the mysteries I saw in the film. Barton, though he talks a good show about wanting to write about "the common man", doesn't see anything around him as worthy of being a subject. He fears learning about the common man, or anything else outside his experience. His experience teems with material for a watchful writer, but Barton sees nothing. When the wallpaper peels, he doesn't look for what's underneath or an explanation, he feverishly tries to cover up what's "exposed" as fast as he can (uno metaphoro). I agree with all comments about Goodman presenting Barton with a "common man" right in his own room. He has a research subject to learn from and to use as a springboard to break through his "writer's block", but he can't see anything that "god" presents for him to use. And the Woman on the Beach. Interesting that he never sees her face. He can never really SEE her but seems drawn to her and fascinated by her. He is drawn to the fact that she is "unseeable". In the end he "sees" her and doesn't explore that possibility either. The Box? He never opens it. We assume what we want to assume, but Barton, who is in control (!) simply attaches to the box without ever "discovering" it. He is all show and no substance. I agree, his one hit (the play) may be all he has in him. He's a one-trick pony posing as a seeking writer, intent on revealing the inner "common man" but is petrified by fear, ignorance or what-you-will. Look at the film again with an eye to his inability to "see" what is clearly revealed to him. you may "see" what I mean! Cheers!
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Another Coen Brothers Classic!!!
RaiderJack21 May 2007
I recently purchased "Barton Fink" along with "Miller's Crossinhg", another Coen Brothers gem.

Barton Fink quite simply is a writer who cannot see the forest for the trees. He is so taken with the fact that he is a writer that he can't write. He is so idealistic that he misses fantastic opportunities to become a writer for the ages because he wastes precious time proselytizing. John Goodman perfectly sums up everyone's frustration with Barton Fink when after a series of unfortunate occurrences, Barton asks him "Why me?" to which John's character answers "Because you don't LISTEN!" Set in 1930s Hollywood we follow the exploits of a one-hit wonder, Barton Fink, who has written a successful Broadway play and is summoned by the powers that be to Hollywood. After much cajoling to take the job from his agent, Barton arrives in Los Angeles determined to become the writer for the common man where he insists true stories live. The trouble with Barton, however, is he does not have time for the common man because he has so romanticized their lot as well as his particular quest in speaking for them.

Excellent performances from John Turturo, John Goodman, Judy Davis, John Polito (often overlooked, but his scenes ALWAYS become his!!) and the inimitable Tony Shaloub.

I have decided after a slew of Coen Brothers films I currently have in my collection, that any project these guys are involved with deserve more than passing scrutiny.
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You all got it wrong!! Why this is a masterpiece: (READ ON)
mistagenki10 July 2004
Warning: Spoilers
Spoiler Alert 98% of the above user comments have totally missed the idea of this movie, and yet some have gotten it exactly correct without even realizing it. Here is THE WHOLE POINT OF THIS MASTERPIECE MOVIE...

Those that stated that the first 2/3 of the movie is boring and then it starts to pick up when the action begins, have unwittingly seen the plot, and masterfully fulfilled its premise. See, Barton Fink is a boring, artsy, impassioned Jewish writer, that gets one lucky break, and is instantly summoned to write a movie that the execs are sure "will be a winner" (no pressure there, right Hollywood?). But since he is so much an "artist", he cannot lower himself to the level of writing a simple wrestling film, desiring instead to write witty stories about "the common man", films that "really mean something". Then he refuses to listen to common man stories, stuck instead on his own ideas of what that should be.

Well, OK, what is obvious here? Well the Coens for one, are Jewish WRITERS/ FILMMAKERS, who got one lucky break, "Blood Simple", and then were given the open door to make Hollywood films, are always branded as mere "artists", too idealistic for the majority of the masses (their movies are rarely fully appreciated or understood, and make only a small profit, but their genius high critic ratings keeps them afloat). So THEY ARE Barton Fink, quite literally and intentionally. It is THEIR personal tale, ensconced in a symbolic cloak.

Summary: Barton wants to write for the common man, and yet what the common man wants to see is this dumb "B"-rated wrestling flick, not some heartfelt idealistic piece about some friendly yokel. They want predictable mystery, unadulterated violence and blood, guns blazing, detectives crunching, and loud sex. As Barton stares at the image of his idealism (the beach picture), he longs for his ill conceived idealism to take form and materialize onto the paper. But of course it is a failure, because he sees himself as an "artist", not as a business man with epic visions.

Which is why finally, the mysterious Audrey (the real writer he is supposed to consult), who always helps Mayhew's stories out of a jam, becomes the catalyst for this story as well, by initiating the sex/horror/detective story as soon as she is asked to. Normal writers apparently are like either Fink or Mayhew, but she sees through to what makes for real-world successful writing (not some dorky contrived "common man" story), and she initiates the final action-filled finale immediately.

This is PURE GENIUS! "Adaptation" as one user here mentioned is like this film, because of the similarity in how the plot loops back in on itself. But this one is much more subtle, to the point where the "common man" would not even understand this movie, and thereby fulfill its message, that all people want are the action films that Hollywood dishes to us, just like the mogul states over and over, and we see delivered on the last third of the celluloid. In the end, Fink realizes his idealism, that what he really wanted is to get his artistic view rejected, so that he can maintain his idealistic (unrealistic) outlook, which is his true passion, the "fight" for self fulfillment. This is personified by the appearance of the girl on the beach, with Fink still not realizing what would be in the box, because he doesn't comprehend Hollywood thinking or action movies (or "mainstream" movies or plots). But he has achieved his goal, as has the movie for Joel and Ethan, as both being an incredibly well-thought and executed film, both an art flick, and an action piece with more perfectly executed symbolism than anyone since Wells.

Now you know why it won all the Cannes awards that year, and why these two brothers from St. Louis Park Minnesota are gods of the art film, while the contrasting Warchowski brothers were once gods of the "common man" film (the first Matrix at least). The Warchowski's even named the subtitle of the Matrix Reloaded as "The Burly Man", which if you look closely (zoom in), is the name of Barton Fink's mystery screenplay, thereby once again fulfilling the intention of this film to the fullest (that what common people want is delivered like clockwork in the Matrix), just like pure Bible prophecies.

Amen, brothers.
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I'll show you the life of the mind...
thehumanduvet28 March 2000
I am absolutely amazed at the fantastic taste of the imdb readership, having loved this film for years and always been told by people I'd told about it and persuaded to watch that it was no good, I finally find some other people out there who love it as much as me, posting (mostly) extremely positive comments...This is a fabulous film, dripping with a brooding, sticky atmosphere that draws you in to the clammy world of Barton Fink, sat in his hotel room listening to the creaking of the wallpaper as it dribbles moistly from the walls, searching for inspiration in his tacky painting and dusty typewriter...Perhaps it is a little dark for some tastes, but as black comedy goes this is the blackest and the most biting there is, the Hollywood system and New York theatrical snobbery lampooned with equal viciousness. Deep insight into the nature of the creative spirit, a plethora of fine performances bringing at first stereotypical characters to full life (despite the unreal, fable-like atmosphere created by the slimy, glistening colours reminiscent of the films of Jeunet&Caro...), and many moments of hilarity make this a perfect movie, one I would not hesitate in recommending to anyone despite the fairly high probability they will hate it. A lack of any underlying morality, an absence of absolutes of right and wrong, good and bad, give this film a unique feeling that it could go anywhere. The last twenty minutes are about the most powerful I have ever seen in anything, at the end of almost every scene I thought it could end there and be an amazing film, yet each further scene only added further depth and poignancy. The first time I saw it, it left me drained, mind spinning, hands shaking, barely able to reach for the remote to rewind it to watch it again...
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A different perspective
drichards14 November 2000
Warning: Spoilers
SPOILER ALERT! If you have not seen the movie please do not read the following comments.

Others have commented about Fink's apparent "descent into Hell", led by the neighbor/devil. I found a different interpretation, revealed by the very last shot of the film. To me, it is fairly clear that he is "in Hell" so to speak, but it is very much a Hellish existence on Earth, and the fire is merely allegorical of the intense pressure for him to deliver, compounded by the stifling Summer heat in his hotel room. I believe that at the end, Barton is still hopelessly blocked, having not written anything beyond his opening paragraph. He didn't get laid, there were no murders, no police, no package, and his neighbor has no dark secret. Those were all part of Fink's fantasy/insanity, created out of the desperation to come up with ideas, as he continues to stare at the picture over his desk. I even have doubts about the visit to the studio executive's home.

In short, at the end of the film, I think he is in exactly the same situation as at the midpoint of the film, the last time we see him staring into the picture, waiting for inspiration.
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Classic dark comedy spoofs Hollywood hacks, literati alike
funkyfry2 August 2003
This is a satire which really eviscerates its main character, nebbish Barton Fink, a semi-successful, very Jewish New York playwright who comes to Hollywood to make his dreams come true, which in his case is definately not writing the next Wallace Beery wrestling picture. There are just too many funny things in this movie to mention them all, so I won't mention any. But this is a movie that is going to stand up to the test of time; it may be the Coen brothers' best movie, because it is both dead funny and dead serious.

Turturro gives the performance of a lifetime as Barton, and Goodman proved with this movie that he was a first class acting talent (what made the Coens think of him in this role, anyway? surely a mark of genius). Davis also shows herself off extremely well, in one of this underrated actresses finest roles.

There is, simply put, no better satire of Hollywood, and none that I can think of that so successfully manages to also spoof the pretentions of those who despise it.
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Memorable, disturbing, and very Coen-esque!
Rumples30 May 1999
I'm still not entirely sure what to think of this film. One thing is sure, it won't be easy to forget. This movie is clearly the product of a writer who has struggled with their muse, and equally one who has a healthy mistrust of Hollywood - the sausage grinder. Although Hollywood has been critiqued in film before in similar ways, memorable scenes, clever dialogue, quality acting, and a surreal plot and setting, add together to make this an unusual and different film. Maybe another viewing might add a different dimension. This is by no means 'light entertainment' and it leaves plenty of questions unanswered. But on the whole, an intelligent movie, if something of an enigma. My vote 7/10
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quirky, dark comedy about "the life of the mind"
fink_inc13 August 2005
No-one makes films like the Coen brothers and Barton Fink is a film like no other. Like all their movies it can be watched over and over and each viewing is as rewarding as the last. It's basically a film about writer's block (it was written when the Brothers Coen were struggling with 'Miller's Crossing',in the midst of their own block) and how lonely the "life of the mind" is. But the message here is that a writer must do everything he can not to be isolated from his fellow man. Barton is trying to write a screenplay for the common man but won't even listen when one such common man (his neighbor in the Hotel Earl, played by John Goodman) tries to tell him stories. He's too interested in spouting clichés about the nobility of the art of writing and the great service he is providing in his works. From the above Barton Fink may sound a little dry but it is anything but and as is customary in Joel and Ethan's films, the narrative never goes where you think it will. If you see Barton Fink for anything though, it should be for the characters, because they are incredibly well written and acted.
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Look upon me! I'll show you the life of the mind!
lastliberal17 July 2007
The Coen brothers have come a long way from their start with an 8mm camera. They have written and produced some great homages to the film noir era of Hollywood, and this film is no exception.

First, is the great dialog written by the brothers. Great dialog is a feature of their films, and this one has some of the most memorable I have heard. You can almost turn off the visual and just listen and be enchanted and know you are listening to a Coen brothers film.

But turning off the visual would deprive you of the great cinematography of Roger Deakins. His can frame a scene to the point that you could pause the film and just soak in the texture and color and realism. It is almost as if every frame is a painting.

The Coen brothers also seem to get the best performances out of an actor that I have seen. John Goodman is brilliant in this film and he seems to do his best work for the Coens. John Turturro is captivating as the hack writer who talks about his love for the common man, but just really doesn't know the common man and really doesn't care about them. Michael Lerner was brilliant as the requisite man behind the desk that is the feature of 40's noir.

One doesn't always know what is in the Coen brothers minds. Is this a foretelling of the rise of Nazism, of intellectuals who really didn't understand the appeal of fascism to the common man, or a surreal portrait of someone who sells out. No matter what their intention, they make you think and return to see their films again and again.
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Hollywood: A Metaphor for Hell
Sickfrog14 August 1998
Warning: Spoilers
This slow-paced journey of a writer being lured into a doomed life in the limbo-esqe state of California (synonymous with misery) takes it time developing and preparing itself for a dynamic execution in the end. John Turturro is brilliantly subdued as the tragic writer. Most of the most powerful emotions he conveys are not done through any words or even give -away facial expression. He finds a way to make all those emotions implied, so that you, the viewer, almost insert your own feelings of anguish and impotence into his role. Michael Lerner earned an Oscar nomination as an enthusiastic director, who is critically self-determined, though constantly shifting on what he is supposed to be determined about. John Mahoney, Judy Davis and Tony Shaloub also turn in solid, dependable performances. But above all the other actors, it is John Goodman who shines in a brilliantly conceived and brilliantly executed role. While I will not give away the secret behind his character, this is not a performance that any true film buff will want to miss. It is one of the most dynamic and powerful performance in recent memory. And so, you will not want to miss this, the Coen brothers most moody and tightest film, even beyond their other masterpiece, "Fargo."
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You Don't Listen !
ShootingShark28 December 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Barton Fink is a playwright, the new darling of Broadway, who gets a tempting offer to write for a Hollywood studio. Reluctantly, he agrees, but when he is assigned a wrestling picture, he finds he is completely blocked up. With a deadline looming, can he come up with a good story ?

This movie, which won the Palme D'Or at the 1991 Cannes Film Festival, seems to be saying that fruity movies designed for critics, are worthless. Isn't that a delicious irony ? An arty movie reflecting on the self-indulgent, egotistical, uninvolving qualities of arty movies. Barton is so self-obsessed with the importance of his work he completely misses the point of everything that's happening around him. Only at the very end, when Lipnick finally chews him out, does he begin to understand the point of writing (and cinema), and it's not to win acclaim for yourself. What makes this especially weird is that for the Coen Brothers, this critical darling of a movie was sandwiched between two even better films, Miller's Crossing and The Hudsucker Proxy, two fantastic entertainment extravaganzas, both of which were mauled and bombed. It's a beautiful film though, filled to the brim with subtext which invites interpretation - the Hotel Earle is really Hell and Charlie is the Devil, is it Audrey's head in the box, wrestling as a metaphor for Barton's block, beauty as a distraction from work/reality, Mayhew as King Nebuchadnezzar unable to interpret his own dreams, Barton's surreal experiences of Hollywood. There as so many engaging little nods to these ideas, like the hotel stationery logo ("A day or a lifetime !") or the odd whooshing noises whenever a door is opened (Skip Lievsay's sound design is terrific). Of course some characters can be interpreted as disguised parodies, with Barton as Clifford Odets, Mayhew as William Faulkner and Lerner as Louis B. Mayer, but this is hardly a biopic or exposé story. The cast are all terrific, with Turturro giving a career-best turn, Goodman doing an incredible job with a character who seems to transform constantly throughout the film, Davis as a southern belle straight out of Tennessee Williams, Lerner and Shaloub injecting wry doses of humour, and Mahoney in a showstopping drunk role. The ace photography (the Coens first with cameraman Roger Deakins) is simply stunning throughout; long elegant takes, amazing ultra-closeups as we literally crawl into Barton's Underwood typewriter, a bravura down-the-plughole tracking shot. Combine this with Carter Burwell's typically spare, haunting score, and terrific production design by Dennis Gassner - the Earle is a much a character as any of the actual people - and the result is an unforgettable piece of fantasy drama and one of the Coen's best movies.
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A masterpiece of surrealism
Mort-3131 October 2000
The Coen-movie I liked best was "Raising Arizona". But being realisic, I know that "Miller's Crossing" and "Barton Fink" were better. There is so much inside and behind this movie, it's impossible to refer to every single detail. John Turturro has never given a better performance than here, as arrogant, too ambitious author Barton Fink. John Goodman also plays his role for a lifetime. And of course, Michael Lerner was nominated for an Academy Award. The reason why he still is no star is that he didn't act in any other Coen-brothers-movie. It's a fact that with their direction actors reach their climax.

Some of my friends who saw this film disliked it because they didn't understand the plot. Well, this is not a movie for people who need instructions how to handle a film. You have to think, to guess what all the symbols mean, what the ending means. Whatever you'll guess it can't be completely wrong because a real masterpiece like this offers many possibilities for interpretation.
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Deep, meaningful, slow, and boring.
Useful_Reviewer28 February 2010
First it should be noted that this is not so much a comedy as a comedy/drama. The comedy parts are indeed funny, but there aren't that many of them. The drama parts are desperately slow and dull, but the entire movie is absolutely rife with metaphor and symbolic meaning. Also, the acting performances are fantastic.

So if you're the kind of person who likes to think about every possible idea the filmmakers could have been intending to communicate in every scene, then you'll have a great time with this movie, but if you prefer a story that moves from plot point to plot point at a reasonable pace, then you might find this very hard to sit through.

Personally, I felt the filmmakers were trying to beat me over the head with symbolism, metaphor, and atmosphere to try to make a point that most people already agree with.
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"I'm a writer, you monsters! I create!"
Dr. Gore23 May 2003
Warning: Spoilers

"Barton Fink" is about Barton Fink. Catchy title eh? Fink is a writer. He's a writer for the common man. He wants to create a new, living, breathing theater "of and about the common man". He has one hit play and then shuffles off to Hollywood to continue his fight for artistic purity. The second he gets there, Hollywood has different plans. They want him to get cracking on a wrestling picture. "People are going to say to you, Wallace Beery, wrestling, it's a B-picture." Fink slowly realizes he's in over his head in a low genre. Thankfully his neighbor, (John Goodman), shows up to help Fink connect to the mind of the common man. Fink can't hear him because he's too busy listening to himself talk about nothing.

There are a couple of different movies going on in "Barton Fink". My favorite one, and the most funny, is the story of pretentious Fink and the harsh reality check he gets from the Hollywood players. Jack Lipnick, (Michael Lerner), is hilarious. He's the studio head who talks a mile a minute. He confounds Barton with his West Coast ways. He has showmanship and Barton has none. Fink also runs into another fast talking studio exec, Ben Geisler, (Tony Shalhoub). All the scenes with Lerner and Shalhoub are classic. I've watched this movie many times just to see those scenes. The fast forward button took me to the scenes I needed.

The rest of "Barton Fink" is an odd tale. There is murder, Goodman, cops, writers block and visions of Hell. Fink came out to L.A. to show us something beautiful but got knocked to his knees as Hollywood showed him the way things really are: Their way or no way. A surreal cautionary tale about Hollywood although it makes me want to meet some slick guys like Lipnick and Geisler. I would laugh my head off as they tell me how idiotic I am. "We don't put Wally Beery in a fruity movie about suffering! I thought we were together on that!!"
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Bergman & Fellini in the '90s
alejandro-2220 January 2006
This is, by far, one of the best movies I've ever seen. It has been a mistake to tag it as a thriller, because even when that may seem to be the basic plot, what we're seeing here is a truly masterpiece, and an open-class (by the Coen) about how to write and direct a perfect script. And I mean it, this guys made no mistakes, everything is just in the place it must be. It has a lot of reminiscences of the Fellini of the '50s, as well as Bergman (in the 70's, maybe), but yet, it keep a personal touch that makes it just what it is: a must see picture for anybody who takes seriously the author-like cinema. Turturro and Goodman performances establish them as two incredible actors, and even when both the visual (mainly) and the implicit script lines turn extremely complex by moments (it may require from some classic movies and directors knowledge in order to fully understand/appreciate some blinks, and there're a lot of them along the film), it's a truly experience to watch this movie, if you don't care about some intellectual work (a lot of metaphores, symbolisms and relations between such different concepts as literature and philosophy are used permanently on the film). In a word: 10 out of ten.
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Another Coen Brother great!
artzau4 December 2000
I liken the Coen brothers to Haagen-Daz ice cream, i.e., various stages of good. I would argue this dark film, laden with more allegories than Dante, is not their best...but, it's good, damn good. To begin with, stellar performances form Turturro, Goodman, Mahoney, Buscemi and Lehner. The thing I find amazing is the skill in bringing so much darkness to such a bright, colorful cinemagraphic work-- remindful of Ingmar Bergman's Cries and Whispers, in that regard-- that teeters on the edge. Goodman's last scene walking into the burning hotel room is eerie but very bright (why not? The damn place is burning down.) This is another great Coen brother film and let's hear it for Ethan and Joel! See it!
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A bit overrated
salvora4 July 2014
This is a movie with very good actors, interesting characters and some good dialogues, but it's a bit overrated and it's far from a masterpiece. The plot is very slow at the beginning and it doesn't seem to get anywhere during the first half. The second half is a bit of a mess. The plot does become interesting for a little while as unexpected things start to happen and it makes the viewer wonder where it's going and what's going to happen next. But in the end the new plot turns pointless as it doesn't really add anything and the ending is just disappointing. There's no character development whatsoever and there is no good tale to tell. So why tell it?
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Sucked all the air right out of the room
32Ford22 March 2008
This movie sucks beyond all belief. Not quite as bad as Borak,but close. I downloaded it from for $1.99,and want my money back. Other than the guy that played Fink,everybody in the movie overacts to the point of being hammy.

I have no idea why so many of the actors used such horrible southern accents for a movie about life in LA in 1941,but they did.

I see where somebody said it was humorous,but I found it about as funny as tumor day at the children;s hospital.

I have seen several other movies directed by these two brothers,and enjoyed every one of them. Not this stinker,though.
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Dark, funny, smart, creepy, and Coen.
ofpsmith28 June 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Barton Fink (John Turturro) is a New York playwright who gets a job working for Hollywood in 1941. When he meets his boss Jack Lipnick (Michael Lerner), Barton is assigned a wrestling movie. Barton takes residence in the dilapidated Hotel Earle, and sets to work, but gets severe writer's block from the start. He meets his neighbor Charlie Meadows (John Goodman) an outwardly friendly man, but who may or may not be a serial killer. Barton also meets novelist WP Mayhew (John Mahoney) and his mistress Audrey Taylor (Judy Davis) who struggles to put up with Mayhew's constant drinking. When Audrey is unexpectedly killed while visiting Barton, Charlie recommends that they keep it quiet from the police. Soon Barton completes the screenplay but Lipnick chastises him for it. The acting is great all around. Turturro is fantastic as Barton, and Goodman fits the character of the jovial yet sinister Charlie perfectly. It's really hard to imagine anyone else in the role. Barton Fink is one of those movies where you really have to pay attention in order to know what's going on. We follow Barton through his week at Hollywood as he tries to write, but witnesses all these strange occurrences while there. All the strange and bizarre parts of the movie add to the existential and surreal tone of the film. Although definitely a comedy, Barton Fink could probable also be considered a horror film. Not something like Dracula or Frankenstein where it's clear, but more like Eraserhead where the tone builds on the creepy atmosphere. And it's done in only a way that the Coen brothers could do it. An atmospheric nightmare that can make you laugh. If you like the Coen brothers, watch Barton Fink if you haven't already.
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I'll Show You the World of the Mind
tedg3 February 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Any Coen film is worth traveling to see. All of them are enterprises about the enterprise of film-making or writing, but you never know what little side voyage we're going on, what creases of creation we're exploring.

In this case, instead of playing with a genre, they play with the writing itself. Rather, they depict the mind of a writer as a hotel, an Aristotelian arrangement of cubbyholes into which one sets up shop.

This is their most self-referential work to date: Writing about writing; pictures about pictures, wrestling about wrestling (with a biblical Jacob thrown in); various forces at work for control of his (and other's) head; work about working people. Investigation; queries. And love about death as depicted by a drunken Faulkner (and his lover/ amanuensis who orgasmicly dies).

Along the way, trademarked satire of the industry and war. Only one false scene: a bar fight.

I think its fun, but am thankful that they needed to do this only once. Now we can turn to the more nuanced folding within genres.

Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.
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The Emperor's New Clothes
jupydoo14 February 2005
I cannot believe that there isn't a single negative comment on here about this film. I like odd films. I even like the Coen Brothers. But this movie was a waste of time. Those who like it, I think, may be suffering from a case of "The Emperor's New Clothes..."... ie "If I find depth in this film I can establish my intelligence." No one dares call out, like the little boy in the crowd who declares the emperor is naked- "this film was a mess!" I like films with symbolism. But this film was full of ambiguous symbolism. It reminds me of people at my church that can make symbolism out of everything... twist it to be whatever best supports their mood. If you are looking for something to twist, to mull over then this film is for you. By the end of the film, you don't know if ANY of the characters were real. And you'll never know. There is no fight-club-ish moment of truth that makes you want to rewatch the film. This was the least satisfying mind-job I've ever had. If you want to feel smart and insightful, then watch this movie. I would recommend fast forwarding over any part where a single violin can be heard. Don't slow it down til dialogue resumes. As a matter of fact, fast forward over the whole film. Watch some flies buzz around and make some symbolism out of that. It would be just as productive.
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Masterpiece of Allegory and Atmosphere
nelsoneddy23 July 2006
Warning: Spoilers
In the opening scene of Barton Fink, Barton is standing nervously in the wings watching his play being performed. Watching the film for at least the 4th or 5th time the other day, I realized that the off-camera voices of two of the stage actors were--I would bet money on it--John Turturro and (Mrs. Joel Coen) Frances McDormand (uncredited, of course)! The solipsism of John Turturro as Barton Fink listening to his own voice as one of the stage actors in his play blew my mind. But that's just a bit of trivia--I doubt very much there was any intentional irony there.

Trivia aside, Barton Fink is a masterpiece of satire, rich in atmosphere and symbolism, boasting razor-sharp writing and career performances by John Turturro, John Goodman, Michael Lerner, and John Mahoney, as well as fine contributions from Jon Polito and Judy Davis. As an allegorical story, the surrealism is introduced slowly but sure-handedly, until all hell breaks loose, literally and figuratively--well, literarily and figuratively--in the third act.

Barton Fink, as you surely know, is a New York playwright who wants to forge a new theater about and for the working class. His noble aspiration is tempered by his obvious dilettantism bordering on condescension. His first meeting with Everyman Charlie Meadows, he spouts off about the theater ignoring the "common man," but every time Charlie says "I could tell you stories," Barton cuts him off and continues pontificating.

Barton is lured to Hollywood for one reason: money. Despite the fact that Barton's New York success is hardly solidified, he buys his agent's thesis that a successful screenplay could finance any number of plays, and immediately heads for what Bill Mayhew (John Mahoney) archly refers to as the "Great Salt Lick." He has barely set foot in Hollywood when the surrealism is introduced by the bell at the front desk of the Hotel Earle, which continues to sound for a good minute like one of those (what do they call them?) "infinity chimes".

The Hotel is so palpable, it's almost a separate character in the unfolding tragedy that befalls our poor protagonist. It's so oppressively hot, the wallpaper is peeling off the walls. The hallways stretch eerily to the vanishing point. As Barton settles into the mother of all writer's blocks, inspiration hovers tantalizingly over his typewriter in the form of a tacky painting of a mysterious woman sunbathing on the beach. The words of the opening paragraph upon which he has found himself stuck taunt him from the very page of the hotel Bible.

I could go on and on. This is the Coen brothers at the peak of their powers. It's Raising Arizona meets Fargo. Small wonder it swept Cannes in unprecedented fashion.
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The most overrated movie ever. (after maybe Titanic and Gladiator)
kap9996 August 2001
I had heard a bit about this movie (mostly good things). It had a farely high rating on here as well so I decided to watch it. Before I go on about the movie, I'll tell you a little about myself.

I'm a farely patient guy who loves watching movies (all types). Liked most of the other Cohen borthers' movies (Fargo, Big Lebowski and Raising Arizona) but I could barely watch this film. Its one of THE MOST OVERRATED MOVIES EVER. I don't believe it won the Golden Palm that year. (I don't have any respect for the Oscars so am not including the Oscar nominations it received). I mean HOW BAD were the rest of the movies that year anyway???

It makes me sick that movies like this are classified as comedies. How boring is you're life if you find humor in stuff like this. So maybe its this very deep movie and it reveals a dark side of Hollywood, with a whole bunch of hidden metaphors and insider jokes, blah, blah, blah. But who are we trying to fool over here??? I've seen my share of films and know a good movie when I see one. I don't need to have some pseudo-intellectuial wanabe tell me how good or deep they thought the film was. Watching it reminded me of "The Emperor's New Clothes" where if you couldn't see the clothes you were considered stupid. Is that why this movie has such a high rating?? Cause people are too scared to admit it was a bad movie for fear of looking stupid??? If this makes you think I'm probably too young (I'm 22) to understand and appretiate a movie like this, so be it. But I'll never admit (no matter how old I get) that there was an iota of humor in that film. A COMPLETE WASTE of time.
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lee_eisenberg25 May 2006
"Barton Fink" is, in my opinion, probably the Coen brothers' weirdest movie ever. Portraying the playwright title character (John Turturro) getting called to LA in 1941 to write a movie script and experiencing several strange things while suffering writer's block, they let out all the stops here. I should identify that although we usually expect unusual things from the Coen brothers, this is beyond bizarre. Of course, it is very likely that they're just showing how hellish Hollywood is (how many movies have shown that?). But that bug, plus Charlie Meadows (John Goodman), plus the picture on the wall - and of course the end scene - all add up to something really far out. What does it all add up to? I don't know, but the movie is worth seeing. Just be forewarned, this is not really an "easy" movie (well duh, it's a Coen brothers movie). Also starring Michael Lerner, Judy Davis, John Mahoney, Steve Buscemi and Tony Shalhoub.
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the Coen's most ambiguous work; the older cousin to Lynch's Mulholland Drive
Quinoa198417 December 2005
Barton Fink, much like a Lynch film as mentioned, or something along the lines of a totally surrealist work, plays on the themes like music, and offers up some waiting, strange images, even stranger, brand-name Coen-brothers characters, and a climax that plays into what the film is about so much it almost nails it hard on the head. At the same time, it's a dark comedy about the B-Hollywood picture world, and writing in general. Half of the movie, like 'Drive', is more straightforward, and then it goes right into the depths of a nightmarish mind-molder. A lot of times it's less funny than it is more tragic-comic, with it's hero occasionally meeting a character that provides laughs, big ones, and then quiet, brooding sensations. And that wallpaper that just wont stick. Starring is John Turturro, winning a Cannes acting award for his truly uncomfortable, often burnt and often perpetually uncertain but life-filled title character, is blocked.

Who could blame him when forced by contract into a wrestling picture for an old-time studio head (Michael Lerner, who has show-stealer scenes), getting no advice from his once-idol-now-drunkard writer Mayhew, and only company being a surly, un-commonly genteel fellow from next door named Charlie (John Goodman), and the writer's 'secretary'? As Fink tries to find what the 'essence' of what he needs to write for this formulaic picture, Charlie keeps stopping by, things keeps revolving around him in the frustrated Hollywood scheme, and he goes in over his head. But what makes him go over his head? The Coen's solve this possible problem in terms of their surreal-like, trick-playing and mood heavy technique by making the hotel Fink is staying at have its own sort of character, the walls and the images (i.e. the painting, typewriter, ceiling) all apart of what's closing in on him. Roger Deakins, first-time DP with the brothers, gets long, cavernous hallway shots. And then there's Turturro himself, quite the eccentric here and there, but really is the most sane guy when given the other characters.

There's such eccentricity here, and so many potentials for deranged humor and even beautiful shots of this sort of 'hell', that you almost can't hope but think something has to come out of this. What climaxes is indeed one of the Coen's very best. I've seen Barton Fink twice now, and I've almost had the same reaction to it both times, with a greater appreciation for all of the dream-like qualities of the film this time (and also having gone through more of the Lynch and Bunuel and films like that). But you do have to 'give' yourself to the film (hate to use that term, but it's true for here). I could see someone getting bored with this movie- certainly not I, though then again it's such a particular thing (unless dealing with Fargo or O Brother Where Art Thou) to recommend a Coen brothers movie to the masses. Especially this time around, when the duo were working their way through a block on a much more 'mainstream' movie for them (Miller's Crossing), that some of the symbolism, if it even is sometimes, will go over people's heads. Indeed, here and there I could sense a possibility for pretentious moments to slip through.

They didn't for me, and that was thanks to the main three things the film won for at Cannes- the calm, seething direction, the inhibited, magnetically odd acting from Tuturro, and the production values all combined. When it comes time to read off the names of the best surrealist works of the last twenty years of the 20th century, this deserves a place among some of the more well-know Lynch and Cronenberg films.
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