The Coen Brothers

Blood Simple, Fargo, No Country for Old Men, Inside Llewyn Davis

The Coen Brothers Retrospective

The fraternal film duo Ethan and Joel Coen (the Coen Brothers) have created brilliant films, each full of linguistic creativity, love for cinema, and escalating actions. To mark the fortieth anniversary of their debut film Blood Simple (1984) hitting theaters, Cinecitta will showcase a film from their rich oeuvre every Friday in July. The program includes No Country for Old Men, Inside Llewyn Davis, Fargo, and a screening of their 4K-restored debut film Blood Simple. Each week, a film from a different decade will be shown.

The shared creative voice of The Coen Brothers is one of the most recognizable in modern American cinema. In the Coens’ universe, the main character can abruptly change halfway through, and even the most carefully planned criminal schemes and life plans never go as expected. No other filmmakers so adeptly contrast the dark sides of humanity with their bumbling antics. Their characters lodge themselves in your brain; think of the car salesman Jerry Lundegaard in Fargo or the relentless killer Anton Chigurh in No Country for Old Men.


The Coen Brothers in the 80s – Blood Simple – July 19, 9:00 PM

In the early 80s, the Coen brothers first came up with the idea to film Blood Simple. At that time, Joel was still a nobody in the film world, while Ethan was working as a typist at Macy’s. They decided to follow the example of director Sam Raimi, who had raised money himself for his low-budget horror film The Evil Dead (1981). Even before production of their film began, the brothers made a trailer for the film. The Coen Brothers managed to raise about $1.5 million and make the film. The film ultimately became one of the best independent films of the year.

Blood Simple
With Blood Simple, Joel and Ethan Coen immediately delivered their dark-comedic calling card. A cafĂ© owner in a small Texas town discovers that his wife is having an affair with one of his employees and hires a private detective to kill the two. However, the detective proves to be not too bright. When a corpse is discovered, a complex web of deceit and double-crossing unfolds, and it’s only a matter of time before more victims fall. The plotlines intertwine ingeniously, with strong performances from, among others, Frances McDormand (Fargo), who makes her film debut here.


The Coen Brothers in the 90s – Fargo – July 26, 9:00 PM

After their cult successes in the 80s, the Coen Brothers truly broke through to the mainstream in the 90s. With their film Barton Fink (1991), they were the big winners at the Cannes Film Festival, winning the Palme d’Or for Best Director and the Palme d’Or for Best Actor for lead John Turturro. Their greatest success came in 1996 with their film Fargo, which was nominated for seven Oscars. Frances McDormand won the Oscar for Best Actress for her role as a pregnant policewoman, and the brothers won for Best Original Screenplay.

Jerry Lundegaard, a local car salesman in the sleepy town of Brainerd, Minnesota, is in financial trouble. He hatches a plan to have his own wife kidnapped to extort a large ransom from his father-in-law. Through a friendly auto mechanic, he hires two thugs to carry out the job. However, the plan goes awry. When the pregnant police officer Marge Gunderson is put on the case, the criminals and Lundegaard soon find themselves in a tight spot.

Fargo is not based on true events. The Coen brothers have always fully exploited their love of storytelling and seem to play a game with the viewer’s gullibility. The story is true if we believe it. And the Coen brothers gladly help in fostering that myth.


The Coen Brothers in the 00s – No Country for Old Men – July 5, 9:00 PM

In the 00s, the Coen Brothers for the first time in their rich careers made films that were not well-received by critics or the general public (the films Intolerable Cruelty & The Ladykillers flopped), but then came No Country for Old Men. The crime drama was the big winner at the Oscars in 2008, taking home four awards: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Adapted Screenplay. The film was made on a budget of $25 million and grossed a total of $171 million.

No Country for Old Men
No Country for Old Men tells the story of Texas redneck Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) who discovers the remnants of a botched drug deal in the desert. A load of heroin and a suitcase containing two million dollars still lie among the dead men. When Moss takes the money, he incurs the wrath of the criminals. They send the psychopathic hitman Chigurh after him, setting off a chain reaction of violence that even the old, disillusioned Sheriff Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) cannot withstand.

Money, drugs, and blood, wrapped in a narrative that also explores the role of chance and inescapable fate: Hollywood meets the ancient Greeks. Or, in the laconic words of Joel Coen: “It’s kind of a western, but also kind of, uh, not…”


The Coen Brothers between 2011 and 2024 – Inside Llewyn Davis – July 12, 9:00 PM

Between 2011 and 2024, The Coen Brothers directed only two feature films together (Inside Llewyn Davis & Hail Caesar!). Inside Llewyn Davis is perhaps their most underappreciated masterpiece. It is a film that was critically acclaimed but seen by too few people. De Volkskrant gave it a 5-star review, stating: “Inside Llewyn Davis is an instant Coen classic. If the Coen brothers have a soft spot for losers, then Llewyn Davis is the musical centerpiece of their collection.”

Inside Llewyn Davis
A week in the life of the eccentric folk singer Llewyn Davis, who is desperately searching for an audience in New York in 1961. And for a place to sleep. The nods to fellow folk singer Bob Dylan are numerous, yet Inside Llewyn Davis is far from a veiled biopic about Dylan. It is a film about luck, timing, and fate.

With the wandering, failed folk singer Llewyn Davis, Joel and Ethan Coen have created another wonderfully eccentric character. It is a plotless film full of tragicomic dialogues, with a surreal touch. Oscar Isaac sang all his songs himself. Inside Llewyn Davis won the Jury Prize at Cannes.