July 28, 2009

Coens "Raising Cain": Thank You, Walker Art Center

Less than a month after I passively challenged the PR strategy for Joel and Ethan Coen's upcoming A Serious Man, out comes a press release from the always ahead-of-the-curve Walker Art Center that they are planning to turn the volume on A Serious Man chatter up to "Deafening" when they bring the brothers to town as part of a career-spanning, 50th Anniversary Regis Dialogue & Retrospective this September. It will be a Coen-anza like no other for the hometown heroes, who were profiled in this space last year.

Joel and Ethan Coen: Raising Cain kicks off on September 18th with a Director's Cut, 25th-anniversary-commemorating, 35mm screening of Blood Simple, followed by a post-screening reception (at Wolfgang Puck's 20.21? I suspect so). The next Friday, September 25th, the brothers will sit down to discuss their career in the 50th Regis Dialogue. Tickets are $100 and include access to the post-show reception, where, if you're lucky, you can ask the brothers themselves about the mystery behind Anton Chigurh's whereabouts at the Desert Sands Motor Hotel.

Here are the details from the press release:

Minneapolis, July 28, 2009 — The Walker Art Center celebrates its 50th Regis Dialogue and Retrospective with Minnesota’s own Joel and Ethan Coen in conjunction with the 25th-anniversary year of their stunning debut, Blood Simple, and upon the release of their 14th feature, the shot-in-Minnesota A Serious Man. The Coen Brothers Regis Dialogue and Film Retrospective, entitled “Raising Cain” and presented September 18-October 17, will showcase all 13 of the feature films they have written, directed, and edited leading up to this newest release: Blood Simple; Raising Arizona; Miller’s Crossing; Barton Fink; The Hudsucker Proxy; Fargo; The Big Lebowski; O Brother, Where Art Thou?; The Man Who Wasn’t There; The Ladykillers; Intolerable Cruelty; No Country for Old Men; and Burn After Reading. The Regis Dialogue, featuring Joel and Ethan Coen in conversation, will take place Friday, September 25, in the Walker Cinema. The retrospective kicks off on September 18 with the directors’ cut of Blood Simple, shown on a special archival 35mm print. The event includes a post-screening reception. Dates for individual programs in the series will be released by August 18.

The Coen brothers’ singular and elaborate worlds reveal a distinct vision that combines pastiche and homage, referencing everything from musicals and old movies to Faulkner to pulp novels and comic books, along with dazzling cinematography and intricate design. Their unique sense of place is flawlessly conceived, right down to the distinctive jargon of the characters, reflecting a stylized form of American vernacular to fit the time and place and genre. As the New York Times described it, the Coens create “a postmodern cinematic world . . . where everything seems vaguely unhinged.” While they’ve mined many genres throughout their career, it is noir which they have done every which way, filtering its absurdity, sense of disorientation, alienation, and cynicism through their unique sensibility. Yet the Coens also toss a funny bone into their movies, employing brazen slapstick, deliciously clever banter, gallows humor, and even sight gags with relish. The films seem to embody the pure joy of their creators.

Once called “the Hardy Boys from Hell” (Rolling Stone), the Coen brothers have confounded and at times divided critics and audiences alike. While these genre-bending, period-twisting shape-shifters can be difficult to pin down, it’s abundantly clear that they are filmmakers whose love for the movies is matched by the vastness of their imagination."

To be honest I'm just as scared as I am excited for this series because lives may be lost in the battle for tickets. The Walker, in a brilliant membership development strategy, is giving August 17th priority ticket access to its Contributing Members ($250+/year), followed by a release to all Walker members on September 10th. Get the rub? If you're not a Walker member you can forget about getting tickets to the Regis Dialogue on the 25th, but you have a couple weeks to join before those tickets go on sale.

Maybe the most bizarre detail about this retrospective, of course, is that it does not include a local premiere of A Serious Man, which opens right in the middle of the month-long series. Why this could not be arranged I don't know, but needless to say the Walker might lose some audience that weekend of October 2nd as locals flock to the Landmark Uptown Theater, where I expect it will open in limited engagement.

For more information about the Regis series schedule as it becomes available, visit the "Raising Cain" page (everytime I hear that I'm going to think of that intolerable "Raisin' McCain" song...) on the Walker's website. When tickets go on sale, the stand-alone Coens section on the Walker website should be up and running.


  1. The Walker is still negotiating for a screening of A Serious Man.

  2. A huge key to the Regis Dialogue will, who the Walker will get to do the discussion with them, IMO.

  3. The absence of ASM in the lineup was obviously the first thing I noticed, and I figured (hoped) there was no way they'd put this together during that time and not include a premiere.

    Not that it really matters, as there's no chance I'm getting into the ASM premiere, the Blood Simple screening/reception, or the Regis Dialogue without some help, or luck. These are the Wonka-like Golden Tickets, and the Contributing Members will snap them up in the first week, if not the first day.

    So yeah,I guess this is my desperate plea to anyone reading this: I'd be thrilled to accept any charity in the form of a ticket, or even access to buy a ticket, for the Regis Dialogue or the ASM premiere. Thanks for your consideration.

  4. Ah, just missed you, Anonymous.

    It is interesting to consider who they might bring for that conversation, but I don't think we'll find out if it makes a difference for ticket demand because I think it will sell out regardless, even at $100 a pop.

    But you're right in that the success of the actual discussion might depend on who's talking to them. I've never heard them in person but everything I know about them tells me they're not the most gregarious interviewees. (Unlike Errol Morris, who went red-faced talking after the Walker premiere last year of Standard Operating Procedure.)

    I'd love to see the Coens get fired up about something...

  5. Several months ago, I was told that Ethan Coen would be attending a Saturday night staging of his new play "Offices" in Manhattan, but that never materialized. In any case Daniel I would love to discuss the 'mystery behind Anton Chigurh's whereabouts at the Desert Sands!" Ha! That alone would be worth the $100.
    I'm hoping you'll find a way to be in attendance.

  6. That doesn't bode well, Sam, but hopefully they'll both show up for their home audience (even if they haven't called it home for decades)! Yeah, the Chigurh question is one of many you could ask them about their filmography.

  7. You want Joel to get fired up? Ask him about Man on Wire. :)

  8. Is he mad that Philippe Petit isn't a character from one of their movies? That could make sense. Or maybe it's just the super liberal use of reenactments that's driven many people (including me, to an extent) crazy.

  9. Nope, he's a huge fan of it. When I met the Coen's and Roger Deakins last year Joel spent much of the time excitedly trying to talk Deakins into watching the film. It was awesome.

  10. Ah, quite a difference. I was thinking "fired up" in the context of Errol Morris almost popping a vein as he badgered a questioner in the audience.

    But if it was a enthusiastic "fired up", well maybe I was least right about the Coens attraction to Philippe Petit.

    So did you crash the ASM set? Will we see you on screen? That would be fantastic.

  11. Nope, my story is much cooler. They wanted to check the film stock they were using (for ASM) was going to look good on screen so they came into our theatre before we were opened and we ran it for them. Joel, Ethan, Roger and Robert Graf who was one of the producers on the film.

    They hung out for about a half hour and I got Roger Deakins to sign my copy of The Assassination of Jesse James and they signed a few posters as well.

  12. At some point that's not just cool, it's also ridiculous. What do you say to a guy like Deakins after 8 Oscar nominations and 0 wins? "Boy, how 'bout that Academy, eh? Thought you were a lock last year."

    Was it MSP stock footage from the 60's? Guess we'll find out soon enough, but I would love to see some shots of downtown and our neighborhood from back in the day.

  13. It wasn't stock footage, it was basic footage they shot around town and they wanted to look at the film stock on the big screen to see how it would look. They wanted to make sure the film stock they were using would give the look they wanted.

  14. I figured I was misreading that (though I'd still love to see old MSP stock footage).

    Well the biggest news of the day is that the trailer for ASM has been released and is exploding across the interwebs. The percentage chance of me watching it, and thus seeing the look of the film stock they decided on, is absolute zero, as in -459% (or maybe -1/459). Mine eyes will not look until I see the whole film, even though I'll be forced to walk around blind during the months of August/September to guarantee it.

    In the meantime, you can watch it yourself and join the masses who are suddenly on board for this movie here, here, and here. It's as if people are surprised that the Coens could make a good movie about their life in their hometown. Go figure.

  15. Its just a teaser, and I highly recommend you watch it, as it is awesome. It won't give anything away, but how they cut the trailer is freaking genius.

  16. So everybody says, but nope, I'm not giving in. I just have no reason to watch it - I've been excited enough since before they started filming this thing, and of course I'll be happy to look back and appreciate the trailer after I see the movie.

    Call me crazy. I am.

  17. Daniel, you are strong-willed. I am determined to follow you this time, my friend.

    I see you have remained the Internet's "Inside Man" for this film from before they began lensing it to this moment. Excellent work!

  18. Can I call you stupid? Because, well, you know. :)

  19. Thanks, Alexander. I can't really claim to have had any more insight than Matt did (actually meeting the bros. & Deakins during production), but I like to think I called this one a little early as people had pretty much ignored it until the trailer was released.

    Matt, let's leave it at crazy. Or maybe stupid crazy...


Related Posts with Thumbnails