A Trip Down Memory Lane: 1999 BBC Doc Sheds Light on the Coen Brothers' Early Days

No one does dark comedy quite like the Brothers Coen. (A pregnant police chief coming upon a bleach-blonde criminal feeding his partner's body through a wood chipper, a perfect mixture of ruthless violence and Minnesota nice, is something only they could pull off.) There has been quite a lot of buzz circulating about their latest film Inside Llewyn Davis, but Joel and Ethan's filmmaking journey began back in 1984 with their critically acclaimed neo-noir Blood SimpleThis 1999 BBC documentary reaches back into the Coens' past to discuss not only their early films (pre-O Brother, Where Art Thou), but the sensibilities that started before they ever said "action".

The Coen Brothers are known for many things: their perfect collaboration, dry humor, and  use of dogs in their films. However, possibly one of their most encouraging hallmarks to indie filmmakers is their desire to stay as pure to their original vision as possible, which often meant sacrificing funding in order to have more control over what went in and what went out of their films.

As you'll see in the documentary, the Coens' past is discussed at length by friends, acquaintances, and actors. Not only do we get to see yearbook photos of Joel and Ethan (very jealous of Ethan's fro), but we get to hear about their comedic sensibilities, impeccable writing, and use of storyboards to get their whole cast and crew involved in the making of each film.

Check out the doc below. (Thanks to Cinephilia and Beyond for sharing this.)

Video is no longer available: www.youtube.com/watch?v=6nFZy4wCLHM

What did you find interesting about the documentary on the Coen Brothers? What inspires you most about the filmmakers? Let us know in the comments!

[via TheSheik1976 & Cinephilia and Beyond]

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Your Comment


Woo! My favorite director duo!!

I feel like the Coens spent more time developing characters and complex ironies than quibbling over camera specs when they were starting out, but I suppose you've got to give the readership what they want.

Watching now!

December 21, 2013 at 9:11PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM


What inspires me the most about these guys is their utter refusal to speak for their stories. They write them, shoot them and then make you, athe audience, think about the films on their own terms. As a writer who loves the craft I want to talk about my stories all the time but I'm learning to bite my tongue and let the finished stuff speak for itself and the unfinished stuff be settled on the page.

January 9, 2014 at 8:24PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM