An artificial wasteland of maleness

I don’t know if it actually is one of the reasons why American’s didn’t watch the Oscars – I actually think it’s more that people guessed, correctly as it turned out, that the gags would be lacklustre on account of the writers’ strike not giving them enough time in which to write twenty and then throw the least funny nineteen away – but Joseph Kugelmass’ blog post contains a pretty good critique of the somewhat hysterical masculinity of both There Will Be Blood and No Country For Old Men.

Admittedly, the Coen Bros. did better than Anderson: we have Llewelyn’s wife and her hilariously grumpy mother, as well as a miscellaneous woman who manages the trailer park where Llewelyn lives. These women are the only characters who refuse to play Anton’s games of death—the trailer park woman won’t give Anton information, and Carla Jean won’t flip a coin for her life.

I really liked No Country For Old Men but Anton’s existential coin-tossing broke my suspension of disbelief, more than his hairstyle; where did this guy get his Psychopath Certificate, at the Jorge Luis Borges campus of the School of the Americas or something, I found myself thinking.

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2 responses to “An artificial wasteland of maleness

  1. The whole Chigurh character was implausible, a dark stain of the psychological unreal on the backdrop of Texas. So was Woody Harrelson’s character, and I wasn’t much convinced by Llewellyn Moss either.

    Chigurh wasn’t any less real than, say, Hannibal Lector, with whom comparisons are being drawn. He was as real as a character who is drawn quite deliberately as a mobile metaphor can be expected to be …

    I loved No Country For Old Men, it was a terrific film. Ranting in general about how there’s been a dry spell when it comes to strong female roles in Oscar-winning films can’t hold up an argument against any one film, and this one deserves to be approached on its own merits.

    If you were out looking for a mindless celebration of the “cult of male violence”, the exceptionally daft 3:10 to Stupid would be a much better pick.

  2. I thought Chigurh was a lot more believable, and scarier, than Hannibal Lecter: but then I’ve always thought of Lecter as basically preposterous, an empty vessel who serves as an excuse for some full-dress hamminess on the part of Anthony Hopkins (and as an excuse for us in the audience to indulge our sadistic fantasies while dressing up any qualms with some “exploration of Absolute Evil” pontificating). If Chigurh had been written by Thomas Harris his first name would probably have been Pitman “The Hitman”.

    Chigurh is pretty rich, as metaphorical bogeymen go: much more so than the Sheriff in O Brother, Where Art Thou? for example. The first coin-tossing routine is brilliantly written, and Bardem’s performance is spine-chilling – but the fact that character is both being used as a metaphor and is himself using a metaphor troubles me for some reason. On the other hand, Chigurh’s use of metaphor – his playing the coin-game, with the implication that he sees himself, I guess, as an instrument of fate, rather than as a murderer, is part of why he is evil (or his psychosis, or both). Perhaps this is why I find it troubling; in which case it’s not an objection to the film, but a strength.

    It’s unfair but inevitable that No Country for Old Men will get yoked to There Will Be Blood. Inevitable because they’re both serious-minded, straightforward meditations on evil and violence, both set in Texas, and both from directors who have in the past been criticised for frittering their talents on whimsical games and overcomplicated structures. Unfair because No Country is (in spite of my cavilling) an artistic success, and the other film is, in my opinion, a disappointing failure.

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