Blood Simple. (Blu-ray)
As the very first film from the Joel and Ethan Coen, BLOOD SIMPLE. shows that these brothers were talented writers and directors from the get go. Oddly, this film has eluded my viewing for many years, so I was thankful when it finally showed up at my doorstep. As I watched the stylish cinematic homage to film noir, the interesting characters and patient unraveling of their actions did not disappoint my eager anticipation.
The film opens with the camera set behind a man and woman in the front seat of a car. In the dark rainy evening, we are only able to see the back of their heads and the windshield wipers working overtime through a downpour. We gather from their conversation that the woman is married but not to the man driving. From the lighting to the sounds of the wiper blades as its own beating score, the entire scene is simple yet riveting as it sets up the betrayal and dangers yet to come.
The two lovers, Ray (John Getz) and Abby (Frances McDormand), commit to their torrid affair leaving helpless husband, Julian (Dan Hedaya), jealous, embarrassed and angry. Consumed with rage, Julian hires an unorthodox private detective (M. Emmet Walsh) to kill his wife and ex-employee. But of course when it comes to the tale of murder, nothing is that simple.
Where other films use miscommunication as an easy out for major plot points, the characters in BLOOD SIMPLE. had actual motives that made sense for them to be guarded as a result of the overall story. I may not agree with their actions but I understood them and watching them play out was simultaneously exhilarating and excruciating. From the direct narrative and unrelenting intensity, it’s easy to see how parts of BLOOD SIMPLE. evolved into parts of their other great films like NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN or FARGO.
All the performances are exceptional but the real stand out is M. Emmet Walsh. From BLADE RUNNER to BACK TO SCHOOL, Walsh has been in numerous supporting roles since 1969, so it was a nice change to see him in a more commanding role. Wearing a fancy mustard cowboy hat with the matching suit and using a slow southern drawl, Walsh shines as a confident selfish hired killer. The character is well written but Walsh makes him electrifying on screen and I’m surprised he didn’t get more accolades for his performance back in 1984.
While I think the Coen brothers most recent ventures of A SERIOUS MAN and TRUE GRIT have been grossly over-rated, nearly all of their films are a joy to watch for at least one session. And many get better the second time around. I’m happy I finally got to see BLOOD SIMPLE. and I believe fans of these talented filmmakers will too.
Video: (Widescreen 1.85:1) The transfer is pretty weak filled with muted colors and grainy scenes.
Audio: (DTS-HD Master Audio) The sound is decent highlighting the intense score.
Audio Commentary with Kenneth Loring of Forever Young Films: An extremely funny commentary lifted from the DVD release. Done in a very serious tone, the gentleman is spoofing the idea of a film historian who loves the picture. However, here we get a lot of absurd made up facts like filming entire scenes upside down and mouthing the words backwards in order to achieve a background affect.