Friday, October 09, 2009

Signs and Wonders

A Serious Man (2009)
directed by Joel & Ethan Coen
rating: 3 out of 5 cravats
seen on the screen at the Arclight Cinerama Dome

Enter Larry - cuckold, blackmail victim, aggrieved neighbor - subjected to a series of routine-for-the-movies (that is, stereotypical) embarrassments, slights, and all-around bad luck. His life isn't funny at all, except in a sad way, and thinking of A Serious Man as a comedy simply doesn't give credit to the title. What the movie is, is gentle, and one smiles at Sy, Danny, and Clive because the difficulties they impose on Larry can only be managed (to the degree that they can be) with a kind of open-eyed, bemused acceptance. There are no surer comforts to be won in this 1967 Minnesota, cold and enigmatic in its gaze at God. A scene of warm light and a slight slip of sound - when Larry gets high at his neighbor's - reveals no truth at all about Larry's condition - the experience, like the rabbis, says nothing new - but underscores perfectly the care and craft with which the Coens execute their trade. Persecuting this saddest of Jobs isn't science, it's art, and finding no answers makes it no less profound.