Inspired by Dave Hicks’ excellent blog, I have decided to write about my favorite film for each year from 1926-2008.
1996: Fargo (Joel and Ethan Coen)
Roger Deakins began his collaboration with the Coen brothers with their 1991 film Barton Fink. Since then, the two directors and the cameraman have proven that they have one of the most vital, important and powerfully artistic relationships in film.
All of their collaborations have visual interest, but Fargo remains my favorite of their aesthetic accomplishments. I’m a sucker, as I’ve mentioned a couple of times now, for snow-covered imagery, and this is a film about as white as any ever made. It’s a gorgeously controlled work in terms of its color palette, camerawork and production design. Everything is deliberate and feels unusually cohesive.
The Coen brothers just so happen to have one other special collaboration, and that’s with composer Carter Burwell. His work is always top-shelf, but this particular score haunts me as much as any he’s ever done.
As per usual, Fargo features wonderful writing from the brothers. The film also gives William H. Macy and Frances McDormand their most memorable characters. I usually don’t champion “ironic noir,” but the successful components of this one far outweigh any reservations I might typically have.
What moviemakers can learn: “Make ’em laugh!” Because the Coen brothers are inherently funny, it allows them to capture a wider audience while taking people into stories and places in which they would normally be reluctant to go. If you’re humorous, use it; it may very well the most valuable item in your directing tool belt.
Other contenders for 1996: At some point, I need to revisit Catherine Breillat’s Parfait amour! and Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne’s La promesse, as it’s been too long since I’ve seen either to know where they’d place on this list. I really like Wong Kar-wai’s Days of Being Wild, Wes Craven’s Scream and Claire Denis’ Nénette et Boni. And I love Hou Hsiao-hsien’s Goodbye, South, Goodbye, Eric Rohmer’s A Summer’s Tale, Arnaud Desplechin’s My Sex Life… or How I Got Into an Argument, André Téchiné’s Thieves, Takeshi Kitano’s Kids Return and Abel Ferrara’s The Funeral. And my closest runner-up is Brian De Palma’s Mission: Impossible.
After living in Los Angeles for seven years, Jeffrey Goodman returned to his hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana to direct The Last Lullaby. Co-written by the creator of Road to Perdition, and starring Tom Sizemore and Sasha Alexander, The Last Lullaby was filmed entirely in and around Shreveport and financed by 48 local investors. Goodman is now at work raising money for his next feature, Peril.