The Coen Brothers and Barry Sonnenfeld
Ed here: Excellent article on the Coen Brothers and their original cinematographer on the occasion of MOMA in NYC.
The Coen Brothers Were Never Better Than with Barry Sonnenfeld
The Gruesome Threesome showcased at the MOMA
By S.T. VanAirsdale
Tuesday, July 29th 2008
Thank you, Barry Sonnenfeld.
Barry Sonnenfeld is known to tell the story of that day in Texas 25 years ago when he walked onto the set of Blood Simple—the Coen Brothers' debut and his first feature film as a cinematographer—and couldn't turn on the camera. Things seemed to work out OK over the next month and a half—and over the next seven years, in fact, when the trio's work on Blood Simple, Raising Arizona, and Miller's Crossing established each of them in careers that would fork dramatically in the decades to come.
The triptych is the highlight of MOMA's latest installment of "Collaborations in the Collection," an ongoing series that highlights film partnerships. Screening nine films, the program spotlights the Coens' stock players (including John Turturro, Frances McDormand, and Steve Buscemi) and technicians. Few behind the camera, however, had an impact as deep as Sonnenfeld's, whose presence can be felt even in the Coen films he didn't shoot—from the wildly formalist Southwestern sketches undergirding the Roger Deakins–shot No Country for Old Men to the accentuated archetypes recurring over all of the brothers' 13 films.
The native New Yorker met fellow NYU film-school alum Joel Coen at a party in 1982, when he and his brother Ethan had recently completed the script for Blood Simple. Sonnenfeld shot a mock trailer with them to attract investors for the $1.5 million feature. The film would be set in Texas—as likely a place as any to host a jealous husband's passion killing, Joel later acknowledged in the film's production notes, though its status as a right-to-work state meant cheaper labor on a non-union shoot.
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