In the early 1980s, a film school dropout and his brother, then a philosophy student working as a typist at Macy’s, wrote a script, threw together a two-minute trailer, and persuaded hundreds of wealthy Minnesotans to invest in their vision.

This scrappy effort yielded their first film, Blood Simple. Thirty-four years and 17 films later, the Coen brothers have produced a body of work as diverse and unconventional as their path to success.

The Coen Brothers presents a full-scale analysis of their work, with each chapter dedicated to a different film. Echoing the brothers’ meticulous approach, Nayman examines every frame and line of dialogue. Meaning is gleaned from even the smallest details; he covers everything from the prominence of circles in The Hudsucker Proxy to the narrative function of cats in Inside Llewyn Davis.

Peppered with infographics, artwork, and photographs provided by cast and crew members, it’s worth picking up for the gorgeous full-page stills alone.

The Takeaway

Fusing prolific analysis with a behind-the-scenes feel, Nayman’s take on the dynamic duo will compel readers to view their films in a new light. As to whether he’s got the Coens all figured out? That’s for them to know and us to keep guessing. MM

The Coen Brothers: This Book Really Ties the Films Together was released by ABRAMS on September 11, 2018. This article appears in MovieMaker‘s 2019 Complete Guide to Making Movies.